Being alone during holidays may not be so bad

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA ,SC (WIS) - Many of us will celebrate the new year with parties and the people closest to us.

For others though, it's a time of loneliness, but a USC professor says being alone isn't always a bad thing.

Dr. Kevin Lewis teaches in USC's Department of Religious Studies. He said many pressures surround people during the holidays, with everyone gathering together. So, there's something to be gained from being on your own. "It can be therapeutic," said Dr. Lewis.

His book, "Lonesome - The Spiritual Meanings of American Solitude," explores what he believes is a uniquely American brand of isolation. It's one that often produces great art and literature. "You can't make the feeling of lonesomeness as I describe it in my book, come," explained Dr. Lewis, "It comes unbidden. It comes like magic, but when it comes, it transforms the lonely. It transforms. It transfigures. It redeems it. It gives you a sense that there's something bigger inside yourself than you knew was there. It connects you with an outer, bigger world outside, and that feels agreeably, congenially sort of redemptive."

"I think historically it's more nature that brings it," stated Dr. Lewis, "Huck Finn looking across the river. Just hearing the echo of a woodchopper across the river. Just feeling solid lonesome. A wonderful feeling for him."

Lewis sees a difference between being lonesome, which he says is a potentially enriching condition and loneliness, which he says is a more destructive state. Nevertheless, he said there is a way to turn loneliness into something more productive. "Reading," he described, "Listen to country music. Walking. Thinking about sunrise to sunset. Writing something of your own. Writing in a journal."

It's taking advantage of what Dr. Lewis calls the "gift" of being lonesome.

"Meditate on it, reflect on it, and maybe it will come," he expressed.

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