Woke up with a few more thoughts on loneliness etc. For argument sake let’s divide humanity into two types, the gregarious and the solitary. People may move from one group to the other over time and certainly there will be degrees in both.
Next consider how the solitary and the gregarious regard other people. I’m interested in the concept of “caring what other people say”. Thinking about permutations of this attribute between the two types I suggest that being gregarious and caring what people say is good and that being solitary and not caring what people say is also good, though I’m not going to try and justify that here.
That leaves us with two other categories: the solitary who care what people say, whose condition I suggest is somewhat tragic, pitiable if you like and the gregarious who don’t care what people say, whose condition I suggest is despicable. The latter are what I call the gregarious indifferent. Their condition is despicable because they foist themselves on others, intrude, trample, disport themselves generally without any concern for what others say.
This condition of gregarious indifference is what is so objectionable about alcoholics. You will note the one-sided conversations, the drunken midnight phone call that’s all “me me me”, demanding interaction and repetitive but utterly indifferent and unreceptive to any response. The purblind, gregarious indifferent are to be avoided like the plague.
Anticipating the objection that one can care about people but not care what they say: I’m not suggesting that caring what people say is the same as caring about other people but it’s a bit more than just “being a good listener”. I think caring what people say is at least part of the way down the road to caring about other people in general (whatever that entails).
My conclusion is either to care what people say and be gregarious or, if you prefer to be solitary for the time being, not to care what anybody says. Do not fall into the opposite situations, namely being solitary and caring what people say – which is tragic – or being gregarious and not caring what people say – which is despicable.
May 2011: Re-reading this I’m thinking either everyone should care what people say, or possibly nobody should care what anybody says and so the whole thing collapses. It’s all tendentious, I think. I could have made it much simpler: I just don’t like drunks who want to talk but not to listen.