I’ve spent this particular lifetime in the grip of what you might call a simple bare fact: Life is a lousy drag.

Bob Kalish observes life from a placid place on the island of Arrowsic (motto: You’re not in Georgetown yet). You can reach him at [email protected]

Actually, that was the title of a book I saw in the window of a Chicago bookstore, must have been 50 years ago. And it wasn’t given any special treatment, didn’t call attention to itself, just sat there with other books representing a wide variety of topics, including the state of mind that seethed beneath the news of the day. In those days loneliness was like the 300-pound gorilla in the room – if you didn’t acknowledge its presence it wouldn’t hurt you.

That was long ago and far away. Back when, as little boys, our heroes were the male movie stars who suffered quietly for us. Remember the iconic scene at the end of “Shane,” when Shane (played by Alan Ladd) rode away on his horse from the homestead, where 12-year-old Brandon deWilde called his name repeatedly. That was 1957. Since then what happened was the ’60s, when true feelings began to assert themselves. When we began to “dig it.”

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, for example, has created a “happiness scale” for its citizens. They call it the Gross National Happiness Index and it strives to measure that which is immeasurable. While closer to home, in the United Kingdom there is now a minister of loneliness, which sounds like a creation from Monty Python.

The bottom line is that you no longer have to feel embarrassed about your feelings of loneliness and depression. Loneliness and depression share a bed. If you get rid of one, the other is still available. Loneliness and happiness mix about as well as oil and vinegar. We’ve come a long way from the days when we couldn’t mention certain words in so-called polite society, like cancer or bad breath or true feelings. When someone died they passed away.

Seriously, when the British create an entire ministry to deal with something as mundane as one’s feelings, it’s time to take a closer look and ask ourselves the question: Why?

Why do we feel lonely, even when in a crowd surrounded by others?

A writer I heard at an event said the only thing really worth writing about was loneliness. Loneliness is life’s default position.

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