To be utterly alone in a place where you have no family, friends, loved ones, where most people speak an alien language is a humbling, disorientating, painful and isolating experience.
Bukowski wrote that ‘Isolation is the gift’, and it is a ‘gift’, a painfully necessary ‘gift’, which few people in life ever get to truly experience. One which allows one to see the ego, its needs, boredom, self-absorption in full glare. Its need for company, for distraction, for love; how much we are attached to and depend on others. The only other experiences I have had that come as close are heartbreak, grief and having a child for the first time. When such experiences arise we want to run away from them, hide, distract ourselves with comforting, familiar faces, food, self-gratifying pleasures all the while ignoring the ‘gift’ of seeing oneself clearly in all its fearful, fragile, child-like dependence.
We have to learn to find peace and contentment in boredom, isolation, loneliness, grief and dissatisfaction. Generally, people are encouraged to deny, hide or avert such emotions though. We live in what I call a cult of ‘happiness’ culture at the moment – mainly fed by greed and consumerism. This creates even more feelings of dislocation and isolation. A genuine sense of peace, contentment and meaning, is not the same as feeling ‘happy’.