Thursday, July 05, 2007

The well of loneliness

Woke up a few days ago to a text message from a US-based friend: "Just watched 'Company.' I cried at the end. God, I'm so gay and lonely. LOL."

The LOL didn't fool me. I knew he was feeling low. Being in a foreign country can do that to you. More, being single in a foreign country for 10 years now can wreak havoc on your otherwise healthy inner constitution. Love has the nerve to shake you to your foundations; so does loneliness.

"People like Sheba think they know what it is to be lonely. But of the drip-drip, long-haul, no-end-in-sight solitude, they know nothing. What it's like to construct an entire weekend around a visit to the launderette. Or to be so chronically untouched that the accidental brush of a bus conductor's hand sends a jolt of longing straight to your groin." -- Judi Dench in "Notes of a Scandal," contrasting her parched life with that of Cate Blanchett's character Sheba. (Patrick Marber wrote the screenplay. He captures the uncapturable perfectly.)

A seminary classmate of mine who became a Vincentian missionary once shared his thoughts on loneliness. He had lived with it, wrestled with it, as pastor of a remote mountain church in Taiwan's aboriginal regions. Far from home, speaking not a word of Chinese, his virile years chained to his vows, he wrote:

"Trained and formed to be lonely-proof missionary, well-armed with theological thoughts, inflamed by youthful idealism and strengthened by the mystical blessings of prayers, I went to a foreign mission with much pride. For nothing could stop me, nobody could humble me. But I was wrong.

"I fought fiercely with these demons for some time. I used all I got to defeat them, but to no avail. They could be weakened but not killed; they could be resisted but not forever. Time came when loneliness crumbled the proud fortress of my emotion and homesickness burned down the high façade of my thoughts, leaving my soul naked.

"But God indeed is the God of many surprises. The moment of my surrender was also the moment of my victory. It was when I accepted that I was lonely that loneliness befriended me. It was when I showed my weakness that homesickness led me back home."

Will his example of surrender work for my US-based friend, as the chipper lights of Broadway mock his solitary life? I don't know. At this moment, in the quiet muggy dead of night as I'm tapping these lines, I've no idea how I myself manage.

The end of Stephen Sondheim's musical "Company," by the way, has the thirtysomething commitment-phobic Bobby acknowledging that, to live in the world, he has to engage it, let it in. Not just the parts he's cozy with, but all of it--the bitter and the sweet, the helpful and the vile, the lovely and the banal. The grand and glorious blessings that mark human intimacy side by side with its wearying burdens.

The song is "Being Alive," and with it, Raul Esparza as Bobby (robbed of a Tony award this year!) locates the bruising yet healing heart of human company. No wonder my friend wept.

Someone to hold you too close
Someone to hurt you too deep
Someone to sit in your chair
And ruin your sleep...

Someone to crowd you with love
Someone to force you to care
Someone who'll make you come through
Who'll always be there
As frightened as you of being alive
Being alive, being alive,
Being alive.

Somebody hold me too close
Somebody hurt me too deep
Somebody sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware of being alive
Make me alive, make me alive
Make me confused
Mock me with praise
Let me be used, vary my days
But alone is alone, not alive

Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody force me to care
Somebody let me come through
I'll always be there
As frightened as you
To help us survive
Being alive, being alive
Being alive!


aryo said...

Now you got me crying too. If you see me dead drunk somewhere these days, you know it's because of this post.:-)

Nick said...

Being Alive is indeed a great song. Amost everyone has a version: From Barbra Streisand to Patti Lupone to Bernadette Peters.

Stephen Sondheim's "Company" where this song was sung is still showing at the Barrymore Theatre on 47th Street for

I love this musical but the idea of the cast playing the musical instruments (which its director did also in another Sondheim great musical, Sweeney Todd)is distracting.

Raul was good (as everyone saw at the Tony's a couple of Sundays ago)but I believe that the Bobby who appeared in the DVD documentary on the cast recording of the musical is still the best Bobby ever. Elaine Stritch was also marvelous in that documentary.

I first saw Sondheim's "Company" when Repertory Philippines staged it a few years ago (They were still in Philamlife then.)That was a terrific production. Great songs. Great cast. Repertory Phils also did a perfect staging of Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" at the Meralco Theatre, with Baby Barredo, Junix Inocian (playing the title role. Is he still in LOndon? Or is he back in town? I miss Junix. ) and Menchu Lauchengco. I enjoyed Repertory Phil's "Sweeney Todd". It also had a revival recently here with Patti Lupone.

SexyMom said...

yes, it's too frightening to be lonely, sometimes, even too difficult to come out of it. but in time, the greatest healer, we bounce back,

aajao said...

"no man is an island." - so true.

snglguy said...

I've gotten so used to being lonely that, it really doesn't matter anymore. Heck I even imagine dying alone someday... now how weird is that?

jayclops said...

Thanks for the Notes on a Scandal excerpt. Patrick Marber is such a brilliant writer and the film was so beautifully acted. If it weren't for Mirren's Queen, Dench would've nailed it.

erasmusa said...

seminary, gibbs? should've expected that. :)

i'm single and abroad, but the loneliness hasn't crept in yet. it's only been ten months in europe, and i am still under the spell of the places and the people surrounding me. "that's what it's all about, isn't it?"

is it just me or does raul esparza look like gerard butler here?

RentHead said...

One of my coming-of-age realizations was that "we were born alone, we're gonna die alone". And a light-headed friend of mine said, "well, what about twins?... " Sobrang natawa ako, hindi na ako lonely! =)

Annamanila said...

What an exquisite post Gibbs. Ang ganda ganda ganda.

I am too overwhelmed for words. But I'll try to summon some.

This is what I had in mind when I wrote in my ZZZ piece that pathos inevitably underpins gay love.

But loneliness isn't the lot of gays alone. Kasama yata talaga sa human condition.

Which makes me ask myself if I am lonely now. With six children, a husband, with friends offline and on, with a 9-6 job I so enjoy doing, with books, music, dvds, the internet?! Heck, the artsy-angsty in me says I should be .. that it is fashionable to be. (Sorry if I seem to trivialize loneliness .. i don't mean to.)

I get worried, depressed, sad, disappointed, hurt, bored, afraid. Lonely .. no, not yet. Eh .. hindi talaga.

dazedblu* said...

it's a realization of truth, nice i like the poem.

Karla said...

I heard this song in one of Lea Salonga's concert CDs! Love it! (Of course, I love anything Lea S.)
I like that line, "Somebody sit in my chair/And ruin my sleep/And make me aware of being alive."
I think one feels most alive during the extreme moments of one's life: when you're happiest and saddest.
Ah, Gibbs, we should meet at a bar one of these days and talk about the misfortunes of dating the younger set!

f i l l i b u s t e r o said...

loneliness is a very heavy thing.
pack light.

gibbs cadiz said...

ARYO, if i see you dead drunk one of these days, i'd say, di ka na nagbago. lol, joke! wag ka na malungkot, darating din siya. lalo pa ngayon, lawyer ka na. nyehehe. :)

hi NICK! i love bernadette peters' 'diva' version of this song. i'll post her and patti's youtubes here soon. thanks for sharing your memories of rep's company. i saw a revival of it in their shangri-la theater, with cocoy laurel as bobby and menchu lauchengco-yulo singing the ladies who lunch. my CD copy is also a revival, with boyd gaines (if i remember correctly) in the lead. but no one really beats elaine stritch from the original cast. :)

hi DINE! thanks for the reassuring words. :)

amen, AAJAO. but one learns that over time, after the misanthropic bravado of youth. :)

SNGLGUY, then we bloggers should still try to meet up every now and then in our sunset years, haha. as the french would say, avay, loneliness, avay! :)

JAYCLOPS, agree! lovelovelove dame judi. :)

gibbs cadiz said...

hi ERASMUSA, yep, the seminary. for six years, in fact, hehe. glad to know you're doing well abroad. keep it up! raul esparza does look like gerard butler--a bloated version, haha. :)

ey RENTHEAD! good question actually. i think one of the saddest sights is to see twins unable to get along well with each other. so one can be lonely despite sharing those unique bonds with a twin brother or sister. there's a musical or two about twins, and a personal fave (or at least one of its songs) is 'i will never leave you' from 'side show.' i'll blog about it soon, because it offers a flip-side look at solitude--ie, forced togetherness. :)

hi ANNA! thank you as usual. don't worry, you're not at all trivializing it. i think some people are more prone to melancholia than others. i know you, and i can understand why loneliness would be no match to your sunny, upbeat disposition. it's a gift; don't lose it. :)

hi DAZEDBLU, thanks! :)

'I think one feels most alive during the extreme moments of one's life: when you're happiest and saddest.' agree, KARLA! hehe. let's go, toma na tayo. :)

good advice, FILLIBUSTERO. and you put it very well--short and sweet. thanks. :)

JV said...

That song made me cry! And it's all because of you, Gibbs! The main reason that I love musicals is that it always reflects life as we live it, it reflects the ups and downs of life. The songs have so much meanings that I could identify to. Loneliness always kills, especially if you really need somebody there beside you and talk to you.

Love that song! Thanks for sharing!

jon said...

Being lonely is indeed very difficult especially when one is away from one's family and good friends. Just sharing what I wrote in one of my blog entries:

I am always a loner since I was in my elementary days. You could always see me sitting on a bench by myself, reading a book in the library, or staying in my bedroom drawing pictures. I wonder why I chose to be one. It is a choice that until now I embrace.

I am still alone, fending for myself. I go to work, tutorials after school, gardening at home, watch television shows and check e-mails. It is an everyday routine, quite boring.

It is awfully sad to be alone in this world. One time I was very ill so I packed my things in advanced coz I knew that I will have to be admitted in a hospital. It was a pitiful sight but brave enough of me to stand strong.

Each one has a destiny and mine is to lead this life, on my own.


I love Notes On A Scandal, both the movie and the novel. Judi Dench was robbed. She should've won Best Actress last year (and this year and next year as well) for her performance.

Regarding loneliness, I say: It takes sunshine and rain to make a rainbow.

lonesome said...

Loneliness is a choice. Being single in a foreign country is lonely enough but how about being alone in a foreign country and leaving somebody behind can be quite a struggle. How can you reconcile being faithful, honest and truthful to your partner and deal with loneliness at the same time. I think single people can easily manage their loneliness than people like us who has to sacrifice some things like maybe faithfulness and the feeling of guilt to have fun. Movies ... like even the most entertaining so far i have seen and people-are-getting-so-crazy-about like Transformers can only fleetingly uplift your spirit, and whats next.... loneliness will start to creep in again. A friend of mine once told me as soon as i arrived in what they say as the most happening city in the world like NY, "If you get lonely in a place like NY, then you start examining yourself because maybe you are dealing with an inner problem" For a while i thought that what he said is true and a really very good point to ponder on. You can either embrace or reject loneliness and its a choice.

As you said "Love has the nerve to shake you to your foundations; so does loneliness" but how about... "LONELINESS has the nerve to shake the foundation of your LOVE" It's a question that people who are away from their someone faces everyday. This post is not initially intended to ask question but if you can share with me your thoughts regarding this matter it will be quite a hadfull of help. Thanks

gibbs cadiz said...

hi JV! hmm, i wonder what you'll do when i post here another sondheim song which i think is even sadder, haha. secret muna. thanks for appreciating the post and the clip. :)

ey MISTERHUBS, i hear you. beautifully said, too. sunshine and rain and rainbow--aargh, sana me pot of gold then at the end. :)

hi LONESOME, thanks for sharing your thoughts here. i see that the post has somehow struck a chord in you. i do agree with your basic premise, that loneliness--especially that brought on by distance--can shake the foundations of your love. lemme gather my thoughts about this further, and perhaps i can write a subsequent post about it. in the meantime, i hope you're doing well. take it easy--loneliness may be a bitch, but i think we're made of sterner stuff. :)

Anonymous said...

there are two types of loneliness.
one, loneliness caused by something you do that you hate.
two, loneliness caused by lack of pre occupations.
it's also good to note that...
happiness has only one face
loneliness has two
and sadness has thousands.
but regadless how black your heart seems to radiate its color, no tough man retreats, for the soul is wiser than the heart. the heart is prone to many faces of dull dark emotions. the soul seeks only one face, one that circumambulates peace of being. and peace is never out of reach.
i, thank you.

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