A Death by Loneliness

lone-astronaut-111107 One thing that strikes westerners about West Africa is the utter lack of privacy. People come and go unannounced. In the village a door is no more than a sheet hanging over a door-less doorway. Clapping substitutes for a doorbell and few stay alone in their huts. In fact, neighbors will send their children to sit with you if you choose to absent yourself. For a red blooded WASP it is all very rude.

But for Africans being alone is something like being ill.

And guess what, a guy name Aristotle agrees. In The Politics he makes it clear that those who think themselves autonomous and beyond community aren’t thinking at all. They are idiots. Literally. The Greek word for individual, in this sense, is idiotes.

But I’m afraid it is worse than that.

In a most disturbing article in Slate, Matthew Bremer writes about Kodokushi. Kodokushi is a modern Japanese phenomenon that loosely means, “death by loneliness.” In Japan today many people are dying lonely deaths, in their apartments, away from the community, away from everything. Most deaths by loneliness go unnoticed for months, human beings decomposing alone in boxy apartments, unknown to society. Some estimate that as many as 30,000 people a year die alone. Often the causes of death elude coroners. In many cases those dying are anything but old. Two sisters, both in their 30’s, recently died lonely and apart in Tokyo. The modern experiment, it seems, has proven Aristotle was on to something. Sadly, the modern experiment has also given us a new way to die.

Community, it seems, is more than just something in which we live. It seems community is that thing from which we derive life. Think of the Trinity. Relationships are iconic in this sense. They are medicine. They aren’t optional. They aren’t something you choose. Relationships are life, and in creating them we create life. Where we lack them, there we create, well… nothing. This is true in schools, in business and in the business of charity. No one has ever built anything by themselves.

Support FTF because we first invest in relationships. Without authentic and long-term relationships on the ground all aid work is doomed. In fact, nothing can flourish where we humans fail to enter relationships.


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