I believe it was the great actor, film director, screenwriter, and radio personality, Orson Welles who said, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”
Strong stuff. And sad.
I can understand someone reacting to Welles by saying he is simply wrong. We are not alone. Love and friendship don’t create illusions, they are the ways that people who are not alone relate to one another. Maybe Welles didn’t experience the kind of love and friendship many of us do.
On the other hand, Welles does make a good point. At the risk of being redundant, each of us is an individual. No matter how close our family and friends, no matter how popular or recognizable our name or face, there is no other you. In this sense you are alone. As someone once quipped, “You are unique. Just like everyone else.”
In his book, A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis reflects on the separation of himself from his wife Joy (referred to in the book as H). The individual who once had another individual in his life now writes,
“And this separation, I suppose, waits for all. I have been thinking of H. and myself as peculiarly unfortunate in being torn apart. But presumably all lovers are. She once said to me, ‘Even if we both died at exactly the same moment, as we lie here side by side, it would be just as much a separation as the one you’re so afraid of.’ Of course she didn’t know, any more than I do. But she was near death; near enough to make a good shot. She used to quote ‘Alone into the Alone.’ She said it felt like that. And how immensely improbable that it should be otherwise! Time and space and body were the very things that brought us together; the telephone wires by which we communicated. Cut one off, or cut both off simultaneously. Either way, mustn’t the conversation stop?”1
It seems we are alone, and yet . . .
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . you are with me” – Psalms 23:4.
- C. S. Lewis. A Grief Observed (New York: Bantam Books, 1961), 14.