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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

K and L

What would be the most logical of emotions in the K and L lists? Kindness or keenness? L might obviously look at love or loyalty or even lust. But I’m trying to explain kama muta (yes it is a thing) and loneliness.

Before the panic sets in I’ll define kama muta. It is a Sanskrit word that describes an extraordinary human experience. It reflects the concept of being moved emotionally by events outside ourselves. It refers to the powerful sense of connection with others, with a higher power or the cosmos itself. It conjures some of the same sensations as love but it is fleeting and doesn’t necessarily translate into changes in human behaviour. If only it could. Researchers describe things such as seeing newborn babies, sunsets, happy couples, cute animals as triggers for kama muta. A moment in time when one feels connected to the world in a positive and hopeful way.

I have two examples that I find fulfil the kama muta moments in my life. One is the first day of the school year. Particularly the first day of kindergarten or high school. All these shiny humans turn up, generally tidied up, and bursting with energy and expectation. They are the embodiment of hope and potential. Now I’ve taught for long enough to know that the shine comes off pretty quickly, but in those first moments before they are called to order, these young people hold the whole world in their hands. They can’t even begin to suspect the power they have for goodness, for positive change, for the absolute magic of existence. If only they could see themselves and world that way.

The other is looking at a full moon. Slightly strange I know. But particularly when it is a blue or sturgeon moon, I feel simultaneously connected to the cosmos and all humanity and yet so small. But here we are all 8.1 billion of us looking up into the light of moon (albeit 12 hours apart) feeling utterly bewildered at the power, beauty and glow of an astronomical body that is more constant than most other things. When the world’s people appear so different, striving for their own sense of control, fighting against the regimes determined to crush, flailing against a terrible tide of misfortune, or simply just getting on with life we overlook our sameness. When I look up, I sense the oneness of the world. One planet, one moon, one sense of humanity. It is my kama muta.

May you become as the waves of one sea, stars of the same heaven, fruits adorning the same tree, roses of one garden in order that through you the oneness of humanity may establish its temple in the world of mankind

Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

And loneliness. A feeling distinct from being alone, lonesome or in solitude. To be alone simply means to be away from others, it is physical rather than emotional. To be lonesome speaks to a way of being and solitude is usually by choice and is a sort after state of being, particularly by the busy and the overwhelmed. But loneliness is a deep feeling where one fails to find a sense of connection with others. Loneliness can be present even when we are surrounded by dozens of people. It can be felt as intensely in the middle of a teeming city as it could be in the silence of an isolated, unpopulated space. Loneliness is painful and not resolved by the mere presence of another human. The cure is connection.

Loneliness is the antithesis of belonging. If you feel you belong you can spend long periods of time alone because at the heart of your world is the ability to reach out to someone. A someone who hears you, who sees you, who knows you and appreciates the fact that you exist. The lonely can feel invisible. Some research into the effects of loneliness on mental and physical health suggests that a person experiencing loneliness is at risk of experiencing major health problems. Some of which include heart disease, anxiety, a weakened immune system and impaired cognitive function. And if that isn’t enough loneliness flies in the face of everything our human pathology says we are. Social animals! A species that functions best when connected to a group, where each one that is valued for their part in the community.

Loneliness is not just about finding friends; it is about purposeful interaction. An example is the loneliness that is prevalent in our older community. The devaluation of the gifts and wisdom of the elderly has steadily increased in western societies where we disconnect from our ageing relatives, both emotionally and physically. Perhaps this extends to those who experience loneliness because of their own differences, the perceived negatives. Maybe we could find a solution in practising a little open-mindedness, a little inclusivity and just

a smidge of kindness.

The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved. Mother Teresa

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