In the pause: Combatting loneliness with literature – a lesson for writers and readers
This week, former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy talked about the loneliness epidemic. By his estimation, the stress of loneliness is a national health crisis, especially for our young people, and will be a leading cause of disease if we don’t take steps to alleviate it.
We’re hyper connected and surrounded by people and pings all day long. How can we be lonely if we’re not alone? Loneliness and being alone are not the same thing. In my opinion the worst kind of loneliness occurs when you feel it but aren’t actually alone. Loneliness is when we feel that no one understand us. As a child, I felt very lonely. One of the main reasons I wrote my book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, is that I want all readers (especially kids) to feel less alone. I want them to know that someone somewhere is rooting for them and believes in their ideas and abilities. Emerson is the friend I needed when I was younger.
Nothing replaces a human presence in our lives though I do believe that books connect us, authors to readers, and readers to readers, across geographies and generations. As authors, they are our contribution to humanity. Books surface issues that matter and help us to walk in one another’s shoes. They help us see points-of-view that we don’t have the experience to see ourselves. They generate understanding, compassion, and empathy. They inspire courage, strength, and the ability to take a chance for something in which we believe. Books are powerful. And as authors, that power isn’t to be wielded lightly. We must work in service of the people who will one day read our words, the people who may one day need a friend and reach for our story.