Songs in the Key of Lonely

1. “Lonely Avenue” — Diana Krall
2. “Lonely Sinking Feeling” — Cowboy Junkies
3. “I Cry Alone” — The Black Keys
4. “I’m So Lonesome I Could cry” — Johnny Cash
5. “Alone & Forsaken” — Townes Van Zandt
6. “Lonesome Songs” –Pieta Brown
7. “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” — Madeleine Peyroux
8. “Lonesome On’ry & Mean” — Steve Young
9. “Lonesome Home Blues” — Buddy Guy
10. “Lonely Man” — Bill Frisell


Lonely or Alone? Loneliness or Loner?

There is a difference between being lonely and being alone. This is one of those topics that frequently pop up in an introduction to psychology class. The discussion tends to focus on the potential dangers concerning feelings of loneliness and depression, but I don’t remember any discussion about being alone and/or being a loner. Some questions were left unanswered concerning what it meant to be a loner and if it is acceptable to desire to be alone. These questions, and many more, are addressed in Party of One The Loners’ Manifesto by Anneli Rufus. I’ve focused on “Lonely Places” this month, but Rufus’ book shows us that being lonely is not synonymous with being alone.

Rufus’ book, as the title suggests, sets out to provide insight and assistance in living life as a loner. The book addresses several aspects of life from childhood and community to friendship and religion and how each aspect relates to the life of a loner. Rufus also discusses how popular culture such as film, literature, and even clothes play a role in how the world views loners and how loners view themselves. These topics, along with several others, are well researched (the book is over fifteen years old so some data may be dated) and is presented in any easy to understand manifesto.

I read Rufus’ book around the first half of 2005 and it has remained on my shelf ever since. It has margin notes from at least four different pens so I have revisited the text  a few times since that first reading. Before I read Rufus’ book I didn’t have a solid understanding of what it meant to be a loner let alone how a loner could get by in a world that imposes social interaction and forced community. Although I don’t agree with all of Rufus’ assertions I’ve found it informative and helpful over the years.

If you, like me, felt those lonely vs. alone conversations in introduction to psychology were a bit lacking then I suggest Party of One A Loners’ Manifesto. Rufus’ book is essential reading for anybody who is a  loner. This month focuses on “Lonely Places” but it is important to realize that loners don’t always feel lonely.


Party of One The Loners’ Manifesto (2003) by Anneli Rufus

When Loneliness is a Way of Life

What role does loneliness play in our lives? I’ve always believed that most of us feel lonely at times, and that many people (myself included) enjoy being alone. I also believed that those feelings of loneliness pass and that being alone is a conscience choice. “An Epidemic of Loneliness” (that’s a pretty scary title) which appears in a recent issue of The Week gives us some alarming statistics concerning loneliness. These statistics have given me cause to rethink my beliefs.

There are several points and assertions in the essay that I’m not going to address here (but I think they are worthy of lengthy discussion). I do want to reflect on two points I found interesting. These points concern the definition of loneliness and a Cigna Insurance report regarding loneliness. The essay uses a definition of loneliness that is accepted by social scientists. Basically, if an individual feels lonely then the individual is lonely. Although I don’t disagree with this definition I feel it stops short at addressing the possible reasons why people feel lonely. Understanding the reasons why people feel lonely is important once you look at the Cigna report. Cigna Insurance reported 47% of 20,000 people feel alone or left out, and 13% said that zero people knew them well. We don’t know why the people surveyed feel lonely (or the parameters/validity of the survey) but these are some alarming numbers if we take them at face value. So, what to make of these observations? First, there are an awful lot of people who are lonely, and it doesn’t appear to be a loneliness that will pass. Second, current methods of identifying and addressing loneliness need to be rethought. Finally, some serious time and effort needs to be invested into finding out why people are feeling lonely and assisting them.

Loneliness appears to playing an important role in many lives. If nearly half of all people are dealing with feelings of loneliness as the Cigna report states, then some serious steps need to be taken to address the issue before loneliness becomes a way of life.


“An Epidemic of Loneliness” The Week 1.11.19

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