Compass of the Times 180

Compass of the Times 180

To Live Together

Keiko Takahashi

The Issue of the 21st Century Called “Loneliness”

In January of 2018, news made headlines around the world that Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the UK, which is in the turmoil of Brexit, “created a new post called minister for loneliness.” The role, assigned for the first time in the world, has a duty of executing a comprehensive policy for those who fall into loneliness and being distressed.

In the UK, it is said that loneliness is harming its citizen’s physical and mental health, causing a loss to their economy that is equivalent to 32 billion pounds (about 4.9 trillion yen) annually.

According to the survey, more than 9 million people out of its population of 65 million suffer from loneliness, and 3.6 million of those above 65 claim that television is their best friend. In addition, 200 thousand elderly people say they don’t even have one conversation with another in a month, and the number increases to 360 thousand if the duration is a week. Furthermore, it is said that 1 out of 4 of those who are physically challenged feel isolated on a daily basis, and surprisingly, more than one-third of those between 18-34 years of age, and one-fourth of parents, constantly feel loneliness.

In the United States, the former Surgeon General of the U.S. Secretary Department of Health and Human Services published apaper in 2017 in an American journal “Harvard Business Review” and pointed out the following: “Loneliness is an epidemic.

We are living in an era when people are fully connected through technology; however, the number of people who feel loneliness is double what it was in the 1980s. More than 40% of American adults feel loneliness.”

This problem also applies to Japan. Among 21 nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Japan had the highest percentage of male respondents who answered that they don’t have much time to spend with friends or colleagues. For females as well, the country came in second place, following Mexico. It can be said that Japan is the loneliest nation in the world. Furthermore, it is pointed out that due to the increase in single people, the issue of loneliness will become more severe from now on.

In the background of those circumstances in the developed nations, there exists a significant change in the way society is structured. People’s lives, which had once been bound by class systems, blood relations, and local rules, were freed from those restrictions, and they became liberated as individuals. They obtained the freedom to choose the job they preferred or getting married of their own free will. What they have lost in exchange for such freedom was the order of the community they had until then. The traditional connections that had existed in the community became scarce.

The prevalence of our digital society today further intensifies such trends. In many aspects of life, people have obtained ways that they can live without having direct contact with others. This means that the issue of loneliness is becoming a theme that can be called a new issue of the 21st century.

For a Way of Life Not to be Isolated – To Live Together

This change in society is the reason why I would like to consider the idea of living together as a new issue and cherish it as something special. What the GLA community has sought from its foundation is also about living together.

Everyone is born alone. We also have to depart alone from this world at the moment when we end our lives. It is not an overstatement to say that being alone is the basis of our lives.

However, we can never live by ourselves during the time of life that connects the two events of being alone. In fact, even during such events of being absolutely alone when we are born and die, we inevitably have support from someone.

Those occasions take place while being supported and watched over by others. There is no birth without parents. Even when we die alone, and there is no one around us, we are most certainly watched over by the existence from an invisible dimension.

What exists at the base of the GLA community is such a network of connections.

It is a network of partners and friends who seek together the essential way of living as human beings and walk along the path that draws out the potential from within us. In other words, it is a network of Bodaishin that seeks real self, that loves others and contributes to world harmony. It is a network of those souls that harbor Bodaishin. By having such a network of will and aspiration, we strengthen our bonds in living together.

Feelings of distrust toward the world and others draw out and amplify the loneliness within us. However, our distrust has been healed great deal while we have taken the path of discovering and nurturing the mind.

We overcome the three streams of influence1 that bring about many differences, opening up our minds and walking the royal road that humans may take. This way of living is a solid foundation that enables us to welcome anyone and walk our paths together as friends.


Editor’s Note

1. Three Streams of Influence

In the place we live, whether it be a community, workplace, or industry, there are implicit premises, conventional wisdom, values, and way of life. When we live there, we are deeply imbued with the atmosphere of the place without realization. I have called such an influence the three streams of influence (family, place, and era) that we inevitably take on in our lives. Family means values and ways of life flowing in from parents and lineage; place represents customs and premises flowing in from region and industry; and era indicates conventional wisdom, knowledge, and values flowing in from the times and society (excerpted and summarized from page 76 of How to Make Your Life the Best, available only in Japanese).