Novel coronavirus is changing the way most of us are living out lives. Through the pandemic, we find ourselves separated from each other. Schools, businesses, universities, and churches are closing doors until further notice. This makes for incredibly challenging times as we are all alone together.
Over a month ago. I started writing a piece about loneliness, but wasn’t sure how to proceed. It’s a difficult subject.
Do I talk about community? We know that humans desire it—I’ve discussed this need here before and others talked about how it helps us come together. Yet in a world where we are forced further apart, this yearning can become painful for each of us. Even introverts have a hard time in complete isolation (which is why solitary confinement is such a frightening punishment).
Loneliness in Anime
Neon Genesis: Evangelion hits hard on the depression that can arise from loneliness. Shinji spent years alone and away from his family—his mother was decease, he had no siblings, and his cold, distant father never seemed to love him. Shinji had few friends. In a previous piece, I wrote on this topic:
Shinji is a pilot of an Evangelion unit—evangelions are living, organic-machine hybrids used to defeat giant monsters called angels, which are destroying the world. Shinji is first introduced when he is about to see his father (Gendo) for the first time in years. Gendo treats those around him as disposable, merely as tools to accomplish his goals—this includes Shinji. Dismissal from his father and overall loneliness feed into Shinji’s depression…Shinji cannot control his feelings of failure. Victory and moderate praise do not remove his internal feelings of doubt and despair. Nothing truly can.
Sarazanmai deals with loneliness, too. Each character is striving to connect to fight against their individual loneliness:
- Kazuki tries to protect his brother through lies and drag.
- Toi tries to maintain his relationship with his brother through lies and crime.
- Enta lies to hide his sexuality and retain a sense of companionship with Kazuki.
- Mabu willingly gives up emotional connection in order to maintain even a false sense of relationship with his love.
The series is filled with flawed figures fighting their individual loneliness in a warped world.
Your Lie in April is largely about loneliness as well. The primary focus of the series is on Kousei as he deals with his feelings of loneliness and depression. His mother is deceased. His father is rarely around. He has few friends. Sound familiar?
As the series progresses, music, love, and friendship help Kousei through his depression and loneliness. They fill him with happiness to the point where he finally sees joy in the world again.
Alone Together and Never Alone
I have heard it said that we are all alone together. What does that even mean?
Maybe it means that through this pandemic, we each are trapped in our own little worlds, but everyone is doing the same. Sometimes we leave our islands and venture out, but rarely far. We cannot. The law, in many cases, restricts where we can go now. Fear of spreading a potentially deadly virus limits our movement.
So, we remain alone.
While we all have moments where we feel this way, as Christians we know that the Lord is always with us. Sheila Dougal writes about how we never suffer alone for the site, Desiring God. She explains:
The bond we share as Christians walking through all kinds of suffering is the bond of loving Christ and wanting him more than anything else in this world. We want Christ to be seen in us, we want to know him and walk with him, and we want the peoples of the world to worship him, whether by life or death, prosperity or suffering (Philippians 1:20). The courage to stand firm in the face of the devil’s devouring temptations comes with knowing we are not the only ones suffering while trusting Christ. When we endure in faith, we help each other to stand firm…Christians are never alone in their sufferings. Even when we feel alone, together in Christ, the church longs for the day when our sufferings are removed, when together we’ll be restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established in the eternal glory of Christ (1 Peter 5:10).
Early during the pandemic, in March, Pope Francis said the following:
[I]n the present situation, in which we find ourselves living more or less isolated, we are invited to rediscover and deepen the value of the communion that unites all the members of the church…united to Christ we are never alone, we form one body, of which [Christ] is the head…it is an union that is nourished with prayer.
While we are apart, Christians form a united church. Through the church universal, we are never truly alone.
I have that knowledge in my heart; however, I know we all still feel that sense of loneliness apart from our friends, family, coworkers, etc. When we cannot get out into the world, we feel isolated and lost. How do we fight that feeling?
Patient.info, a medical site, has a good article on how to cope with loneliness through this pandemic. It offers a few suggestions to fight the feeling of loneliness. I want to highlight a few:
Stay in virtual contact—Keep connecting with people virtually. Interact on social media. Call your friends. Join our Discord server if you are feeling lonely. We have all sorts of conversations about anime, manga, and video games. From Skype to Zoom, there are many tools for connection—use them.
Plan home-based activities—If you’re stuck home, it doesn’t mean you have to stop doing activities. You can join friends in online gaming. Maybe have a virtual hangout with friends on Animal Crossing. You can come up with new recipes and try new foods. You can jump in on the Anime Lockdown virtual anime convention, which begins today. Or even rent a movie. Coming up with fun, home-based activities can keep you motivated and occupied. Doing these activities with others virtually can help even more.
Reach out for help—If you are having a hard time with the loneliness, don’t hesitate to find help. Say something to a trusted family member of friend. If you find the loneliness is leading to you struggling with suicidal thoughts or tendencies, contact a resource like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) immediately to talk to a professional, or go online for more information.
While we may be separated from each other—we don’t have to be alone. Let’s genuinely be alone together.