Life can be a desperately solitary place. You may find yourself drifting down darkened roads, wondering where everybody is and how to find them. Is something going on somewhere that nobody told you about? Is there a parade on the other side of town? Why else would everything be so empty? Even the strangers passing by do not stop to introduce themselves. Nobody comes up and hands you a balloon, nobody asks you if you’d like to come and play the washboard with them. I have been haunted for years by a suicide note I once read about, that said something like “I am on my way to the bridge now. If one person smiles at me on my way there, I will turn around.” They did not turn around.

I don’t know what to do about the quiet desperation of other human beings. I want to at least be able to reassure them. But in a world where so many things are so fundamentally broken, it’s very difficult to offer any reassurance that isn’t B.S. It will all be all right. Will it? Possibly it won’t. Then what? What I really wish, what I daydream about, is for there to be a morning where every sad, lonely person wakes up to hear a noise outside their window. And blearily rousing themselves, they go to the window, and pull aside the curtains. Dazzled by the light, they can’t quite tell what’s on the lawn at first. But, rubbing their eyes, they realize that it’s… everybody. Everybody has come by to say hello. They have brought donuts. One of them is a donut. They have instruments, but they’re playing something pleasant, nothing too jarring while you’re still sleepy. They’ve just stopped by to say hello. Don’t worry if you’re not dressed, they don’t care, half of them aren’t either. They’re visiting you to tell you that, well, not that it’s okay, but that whatever happens, they all care about you and want you to be okay, and if you need them, they’ll be around. If you want them to go, they’ll go. If you want them to stay, they’ll stay.

I realize that not everybody would be pleased if an enormous crowd of critters showed up outside their front window, donuts or no donuts. Some people avoid social functions for a reason, they certainly don’t want a spontaneous party in their honor. But I do wish there was something there for All The Lonely People, some way of making sure that whether they wanted to go outside or not, they would at least know that there was love out there for them specifically.

Illustration by Chris Matthews

This is a fantasy, of course. Dinosaurs are too extinct to go around cheering up depressed people. But one reason I write is out of an attempt to send, as best I can, the message from the creatures outside. It may not be all right, but you’ll never walk alone. It needs to be transmitted over and over through space, in case anybody out there needs to hear it.

Here is one thing I have done in the past to deal with depression. I am not sure whether it made any difference, or whether it was the pills. (It was probably the pills.) And it sounds very stupid. But I used to imagine myself as…a company, with a board of directors. And my board of directors was all the people, living and dead, whom I admired. My board had some extraordinary people on it. Among them: Eugene Debs, Malcolm X, Fats Domino, Emma Goldman, Frederick Douglass, Noam Chomsky, Cab Calloway, Nawal El Saadawi. And if I was feeling low, I would mentally call a meeting of the board, all these extraordinary people, and I’d ask them what they thought I should do, what they would have done, etc., and all these brilliant historical figures would give me their wisdom and it would help restore my spirits.

As I say, I may have been tricking myself with this technique. But I have always found it comforting to think about other people, their struggles, their insights. They are there outside the window, bearing signs that say Keep Going. They have been through it all, and come out the other side. And with all of them, and all of us, you’ll never be alone anymore.

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