it is difficult to feel the weight of true loneliness, true isolation or complete oblivion.
In Portugal, you walk into a bus station and find yourself a sit. Next to you is an old lady sitting, also waiting for a bus. At first, no one says a word, apart from the cordial greeting. But sooner or later you know she will start speaking. I decide to go first because I need information on the schedules, which are very unclear. I speak out off a practical need, though in order to feel human and not a robot programmed to act in a specific way, I do long for a way of communication that goes beyond practical interaction.
And that was all it took! A simple question about when would the next bus be expected to arrive. From then on, the lady didn’t stop talking. In the mean time another lady, a younger one and her teenage daughter, come by and listen to our exchange of words and decide to step in.
In the end, the 3 ladies were talking as old friends or neighbours (as I guess they were, bus stop neighbours at least, a much more ephemeral “neighbourhoodship”), until the bus came. And although I didn’t intervene much from then on, I was listening and sometimes nodding and they looked at me in order to let me know I was still part of the circle of trust.
What started as a completely alienated atmosphere, ended up making me feel that even if I was to be utterly alone in world, I would be OK. I would be and feel surrounded by my own human kind, even if there were only 3, on and empty bus stop on a Portuguese city highway.
In more Nordic countries, colder countries, I experience the opposite: an utter silence, a crushing space around me, so called “personal” space. How good is this “personal” space in the long run? As if everything, every bit of noise, unexpected move, gaze, etc., is or could be potentially disturbing, invading or destroying of the peace.
But what peace is that, that can never be confronted with anything at all in order to remain peaceful? And if it never experiences its opposite, is it really that, peace?
In China, on the contrary, I have experienced the extreme opposite: the non-personal space. On an empty park you may sit down “alone”, only to soon be joined by another wonderer that came to do the same as you, but instead sat right next to you! He might not even say a word, but he doesn’t need to, as he is not lonely anymore, though often they may initiate a conversation out of curiosity.
Having lived so many years abroad I started to noticed the small great things in more “personal cultures”, which if looking from an outer perspective make up for my own quality of life standards. And simply put, that is (apart from good wine and sunshine) human interaction that has the warm power of keeping all of us in touch.
Braga, Portugal 2012