Alone in the Universe – Revisited (2/10/2023)
Valentine’s Day is coming up and it reminds so many people of their romantic/existential loneliness. Years ago, I wrote this poem to address my own experiences with those issues and to put my feelings into words that are intended to motivate those who read them to remember that even in isolation or ostracization, or in emotional situations that words by themselves cannot explain the darkness and or relieve the pain caused by involuntary celibacy — which drives many young people to commit devious acts of anger and violence. My goal is not to downplay the seriousness of those feelings. I too have felt that way many times but never acted on it, but that is not the point I wish to make.
Instead, I turn to stories of love-starved children in elementary and middle schools (and even in adulthood, like with Sandy Hook and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School) where the suffering is extremely tenuous and insensitive to those who even fall slightly behind, and negating their already low self-confidence and drag them into psychosis (although they are still accountable for their actions). Psychosis and violence are often glamorized in movies such as the most recent one about the “Joker”, and that level of desensitization of crime and murder does contribute to the overarching problem of how these things affect our young people — who should be allowed to have their innocence respected for as long as what is reasonable.
One story that deeply affected me was one about an 8- or 9-year old boy who killed himself because — even at that age — the bullying and stigma and hatred, and also malicious lies and like slander and libel and humiliation — were so serious — and fueled even more heinous social media crimes that probably contributed to his suicide. That story motivated me to be more empathetic to people — even strangers to a degree — and to recognize the inherent dignity that all people share and deserve.
As crazy at it sounds, I think positive psychology should be included in schools — so that we don’t always yell at every student for every transgression, and instead reinforce their self-worth with sincere kindness and sincere gentleness and most of all — the genuine encouragement of and praise for kids who in many ways have no one else in their corner, and motivate them to accomplish good things in the future — the opposite of instant gratification — so that they can recognize the latent talents that they and all people have without feeling shamed or judged for using them to help others.
Many adults have either experienced these situations before, or have seen others hit rock bottom without love or joy or a friend or family member to catch them when they fell there. This is the root of the crisis we see now. In simple terms, I believe that almost all people are capable of collapsing into fiends like the Joker, and many of them are only one negative experience or humiliation away from suicide — that they are emotionally starved too and that the insult could trigger a nightmare, unless they get the help they need and find friends that are truly sincerely reciprocal. That’s why I emphasize smiling and being kind to people even if they do not deserve the grace. Jesus’s teachings taught me much about mindfulness and picking and choosing my battles.
Why this long spiel, you might ask?
I decided to re-release this poem because two months ago, I was notified by the family of one of my close friends from college — who was only about a year younger than me — that he had committed suicide in December. While I had not spoken to him really since I left grad school in 2014, I liked him and and he was an extremely kind and honest person. He was a sincere and loyal friend, and after hearing about what happened, I had wished I could have been there for him. I wish I knew. He had no true support system.
He did not deserve to die the way he did, and I deeply wish he was still alive because I would have done anything for him if he had asked me. I am sure all suicide survivors feel this way, and it leaves an open wound that will never fully close. As friends, as families, as coworkers, as leaders, as friends, as a civilized society; we must take care of each other. Whether we like it or not, we are still each other’s keeper. We must emphasize and spread genuine kindness and empathy and restraint in every reasonable opportunity. As I learned from my friends from Random Acts of Kindness at UM — Being Kind Changes Lives!
In this light, I dedicate this poem to my friend and also to all of you who are suffering inside and out. Please get help immediately!
Suffering in silence does nothing but perpetuate it, Please remember that you are loved and that you matter, and whenever you feel completely alone — read this poem — so that you can remember that you not alone in the Universe. I was there too!
I love you all.
Neruda’s scorching flares
ran down Kerouac’s moonbeams
when Voltaire’s evening sky went dark
and Angelou’s heavenly lights
were nowhere to be seen.
Hemingway’s beacons were eclipsed
by Casanova’s supernova,
leaving scars in the stars
— a brokenness in the Frost
mended by Whitman’s stories
about Emerson and Thoreau
on the secluded shores of Walden Pond.
Such is the voice of the writer,
the artist who shares visions of Starry Nights
— constellations of painted words —
from a place of love
that will neither be reciprocated nor be understood
by his contemporaries.
It is said that there
is no honor for true prophets
in their own lands:
How many a creative mind
has been taken
from cruelest isolation
by his own hand?
Continue pushing your imagination forward,
toward modernity and free expression!
Give no more power to depression:
Remember the passion, the calling,
that brought you here, to success.
Though you are under duress,
hold close to your heart
the joy your work has given you
and the times that you savored your art,
when you did it for free.
Sooner or later,
all of the time
you thought was lost
to fruitless work
will be recovered:
Have faith and you will be discovered.
Hone resolve and your problems will eventually be resolved.
Love your craft and your craft will love you.
Show compassion and encourage others to success.
They will encourage you and direct your compass.
There is but only one thing that rings true to all
Nerudas, Kerouacs, Voltaires, Angelous,
Hemingways, Casanovas, Frosts, Van Goghs,
Whitmans, Emersons, and Thoreaus:
That art is not about the self but about selflessness
— the accumulation of beautiful things,
such as divine wisdom and earthly knowledge,
of cultural memories and personal anecdotes
about shared histories and common identities
that cross generations of civilizations,
transcending time and language
with the hope that those who inherit the world after them
will learn from the achievements and failures
etched in their ancient footsteps.
They tell us, in other words, that we are not alone in the universe.
Leave a Note!