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Living alone and modernity

I recently moved alone for the first time. And although it has been a period of growth and self-reflection, and overall pretty good. I can’t avoid thinking there is something deeply unnatural about it. 

Living alone is hard. We are not designed to live alone. We are programmed to live in proximity to others. To witness their victories and grievances. To argue. To compromise. To celebrate. To form alliances, and break them. To hear the stories of old folks and the promising voices of the young. The comforting–yet at times suffocating– sight and sound of our own. 

We are not yet accustomed to being the single soul in a confined space. The silence is distressing. We excommunicate it by leaving the TV always on, phone notifications, being busy at all times, and with the loudest sound of them all. Our own heads going into overdrive from overthinking. But what else can we do? We need to entertain some conflict. Our brains can’t go without it. That’s what we are used to when living with others. Now the conflict is internal. 

Anytime our modern selves do something that we are not biologically driven to do we feel “off”. Just like living alone feels “off”. Or watching all our acquaintances cherry-pick only the rosiest fragments of their lives and post them on an endless stream of content. Or eating processed food. Or spending your evenings watching the endless toil of fictitious characters carefully cast, packaged, and reproduced on our screens by other people who live alone. Off.

It’s a brave new world. And not such a bad one. Judging by our quality of life and human development indexes. But despite fewer probabilities of something terrible happening to us, we are more anxious than ever. Could it be that we are more anxious because we need it? That’s the only thing that drives us to act in a world where everything is given to us on demand. As Nissim Taleb said about procrastination:

“At an existential level, it is my body rebelling against its entrapment. It is my soul fighting the Procrustean bed of modernity.”

Only a safe and comfortable being can procrastinate after all.

One of Tyler Durden´s most memorable lines is:

“We have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives…”

I wouldn’t go that far. Most of us have great things in our lives. Things to look forward to. Goals, family, projects, friends, hobbies, and the ups and downs that make life the greatest story ever told. Yes. There are lots of things to rejoice about.

But there are also many things we lost. Our pursuit of comfort has driven us farther away from what is necessary to make human interaction authentic. We´ve buried ourselves deep into our concrete caves. From where we can observe humanity from the micro-environment (and comfort) of our smartphone. And everyone can see us. Well, not us. Our projected selves. Filtered by the most desirable traits. Wealth and virility for men. Unfettered sexuality for women. Traits we showcase to attract other cave dwellers through apps and gimmicks. But only for a short while. Lest they become a burden to our insatiable desire for autonomy.

Yet we crave human warmth. Acceptance. Bonding. To listen and be heard. The innate desire to belong. We are not that advanced to escape this perennial instinct. We are so full of ourselves. So modern. So exquisite in lifestyle. Yet we haven’t escaped one thing. That one thing that makes us do what we do. 

The one thing that threatens to break the ruse we´ve built with our gadgets, pills, customs, laws, rules, and NGOs. Human nature. And human nature is better served not living alone. It’s the only thing there is no app for. And there never will. Despite the artificial complexity we have created what applied years ago still applies today. We are the same. Animals fighting for survival and procreation. Just that now we are caged.

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