This headline on the front page of the New York Times this morning caught my attention “Online, Students Say “Reach Out to Loners” . The article, written by Virginia Heffernan is, of course, referring to the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. Cho Seung-Hui, the killer responsible for all of the shootings, was often described by people who knew him as a loner. I thought back to the Columbine massacre, remembering that the two young men responsible had also been described as loners. Who can forget the Unibomber, living in isolation, sending deadly mail bombs from a cabin in the woods?
This concept of “aloneness” is something I have thought about often during my time in the spa industry. It has always been my observation that community is healing – and too much isolation is unhealthy. I learned this during the many years of my destination spa experiences. When guests arrived at a spa exhausted and stressed to-the-max, they invariably want (and need) some time alone to regroup and recharge. But most of the time this lasted for one or two days at the most; by day three, most guests were ready to “come out and play”, socialize, talk with others, exchange thoughts and feelings, etc. As the body/mind/spirit fell back into balance, being social was part of keeping that balance.
I heard a speaker once talk about just how painful being alone can be. He used the isolation cell in prisons as his example of the most extreme and painful punishment, feared by inmates more than any other punishment in the judicial system.
I don’t pretend to think that the simple slogan “Reach Out to Loners” on Facebook and MySpace websites is all that is needed to prevent these types of tragedies in the future, but I am moved to see the online community giving this foundational truth a voice. It is rather impressive how the slogan automatically implies action. This really is something all of us can do.