“The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau – (1817-1862)
Click here for a good description of the story behind this quote.
Many of the lines we’ve used as our “quote for the day,” and archived in our Love, Life & Sex section echo this sentiment expressed by Thoreau, and underscore the loneliness that so easily marks our days. Even in the midst of busy lives filled with people, this aloneness can saturate our waking hours.
Imagine for a moment, what might your “song” be that is never sung, never heard?
We may talk at length with those around us, pushing our way through our schedules and responsibilities, but of course, this is not the same as really expressing ourselves, not the same as being heard, or understood.
The author Paul Tournier suggested in his brilliant little book “To Understand Each Other” (1967), that love thrives where there is understanding, and this he wrote, comes mainly through regular, kind, interested and ongoing conversation. We can however, as Tournier noted, be married for decades, and still live in isolation. Chapter two of this book is entitled, “My Husband is a Mysterious Island.”
We may live together with an intensity and functionality which amazes the neighbours with all we do, and all we accomplish, and yet live lives so distant, separate and lonely. Think of the “chance” meeting that sparks an affair, where for a moment, seemingly deep, kind and understanding communication occurs and launches us from loneliness into the wild hope (often finally!) into this understanding and sweet acceptance; only to result in deeper pain and brokenness.
In our Love Letter post we quoted Samuel Johnson who suggested to one woman, that… “In a man’s letters, you know, madam, his soul lies naked.” But of course we write few letters, and our communicating, if not unkind, is so easily brief and tending toward the superficial, and the repetitive and mundane. We text, and even that in short form!
A PRIVATE AFFAIR was made to help couples risk encountering each other, in the midst of routine and unremarkable days, toward deeper and more intimate dialogue. This builds understanding, fuels interest, nurtures kindness, and warms love. And it encouraging singing of all kinds!
This hunger and this delight is expressed in many different ways, but all requiring some initiative (perhaps something new) and encouraging a similar risk-taking in conversation.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” – Philo of Alexandria – (20 B.C. – 50 A.D.)
“Ultimately, the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or friendship, is conversation.” – Oscar Wilde – 1854-1900
“The first duty of love is to listen.” – Paul Tillich – (1886-1965)
“I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved.” – George Eliot – (1819-1880)
“There is a private spring to everyone’s affection; if you can find that, and touch it, the door will fly open, tho’ it was a miser’s heart.” – T. C. Haliburton (1796-1865)
“See that you act in full union with each other; this is of the utmost consequence. Not only let there be no bitterness or anger, but no shyness or coldness between you.” – John Wesley – (1703-1791)
“Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee; As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be, to taste whole joys.” ~ John Donne, 1572 – 1631
“I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. “ – William Butler Yeats – (1865-1939)
“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.” – Plato – (427-347 B.C)
It won’t do to hide behind an “I’m not like that,” or “I have trouble expressing myself,” etc. “Where there’s a will…” We will need to think about skinny-dipping with our beloved in ways we perhaps haven’t done for a long time. For some, they may have never ventured into these refreshing and life-giving waters.
Stories (and theatre, music, opera, movies, etc.) abound with this common and anguished motif; the couple who live together, but who have suffered, sometimes over many years, a “creeping separateness” across an abyss they now think of as normal, unavoidable and acceptable. There’s alway TV.
If something of this resonates, even in part, then I would heartily encourage you to risk shedding a few clothes. We do well in life to consider the proverbial “worse case scenario.” Truly, we have much more to lose (songs never sung, regrets innumerable) if we don’t risk deeper conversation and exploration together.
The only questions are… how might we do this? And where (perhaps), and when?
Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero – “Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.”
If you have suffered something of this “creeping separateness,” if you feel an enduring loneliness in the midst of a relationship, then think about how you might voice this today. Even a simple “I’m lonely” is a start. At the very least you could perhaps share this post with your partner, telling them, “…actually, this is how I (sorta) feel…” “Please talk to me!”
And of course, if you have the game… pick up a card.