The stadium is packed. The home team’s at bat. You’re there with your family.
It’s the last place you’d expect to feel utterly alone.
by Dvarakadhisa-devi dasi
I can recall the scene quite clearly. I was sitting in the bleacher section of the Busch Memorial Stadium one summer evening as the setting sun swept the pale blue sky with luminous streaks of color. The air was heavy with the combined scents of peanuts, popcorn, and beer. Around me, the crowd was relaxed and amiable, composed mostly of people who seemed to be related to each other. On the field below, a robust young woman emerged to sing the national anthem, only to be drowned out by the accompaniment of the organist. The St. Louis Cardinals, their red-and-white uniforms contrasting sharply with the brilliant green Astro-turf, shifted in boyish impatience as the anthem soared to its vigorous conclusion.
It was a warm and familiar scene. The wholesome congeniality of this Midwestern city was reflected in the faces around me, beaming through their Italian and Germanic flavoring with American prosperity. As the women filled each other’s ears with the details of the latest gallbladder operation, the men hunched forward in absorbed concentration, oblivious to everything except the pitch and the swing. Banners in small fists waved, and the combined sound of twenty radios chorused each play, as our favorite team came from behind in the fifth inning.
I had come with my own family—two sisters and my brother. We were in the habit of doing everything together. Our ages were snug with Catholic closeness, and we had a long-standing rapport of comfortable friendship. I had always found baseball appallingly dull, but I usually went along for the companionship, filling in the scorecard precisely to keep my attention from wandering. There was a strong sense of security in the bonds of my familial affections, and this was only heightened by the fervor of team loyalty and nationalistic patriotism.
It was not at all rational, then, that I should find myself saturated with an overwhelming sensation of loneliness. In the midst of that crowd, bolstered by all that was dear to my heart, I felt completely and totally separated. The vendors’ shrill cries could have been coming from millions of miles away, and the game taking place on the field seemed pointless and incomprehensible. My heart was swelling with sadness, as if I were in a foreign country without any familiar refuge. Yet here I was in my home town! The lack of logic only emphasized the intense emotion.
Sometimes there is a kind of poetic beauty in the mood of loneliness we might experience, say, striding along on a solitary path in the January twilight. It’s a willful relishing of uniqueness, something we schedule to revitalize our psyche. But sometimes loneliness attacks us in a completely inappropriate setting, creating an unwanted disruption to intimacy and camaraderie. Suddenly your birthday party becomes a room full of noisy people, your new date doesn’t seem to understand your English, and your first curtain call leaves you blinded and shaken. A beautiful experience stands stripped of the emotional richness that gave it life, and under bare scrutiny, you discover that there’s nothing actually there. It’s a frightening experience, as you push away the suspicion that all is not really right with your life—that you’re missing something so urgent and essential that even the sweetest pleasures are soured with the sensation of being all alone.
The missing ingredient is Krsna consciousness. Without some real sense of God and how He is involved in our lives, we are certain to feel empty. We are always linked with Krsna; He is simply waiting for us to turn to Him again. Naturally our lives, when devoid of the central figure of worship and love, will be pale and lonely. Lord Krsna Himself explains that He is the actual best friend of each living being, residing within the innermost core of our hearts, always ready to guide and nurture us back to our full relationship with Him. Sudden flashes of loneliness are small but profound signals of our misplaced affections. Proof of their accuracy is that they disappear in direct proportion to the degree with which we embrace vibrant Krsna consciousness.
Sometimes I still find myself slipping into these feelings of loneliness, despite all external security. But rather than being dismayed, I am comforted. I am reminded of my real home with Krsna and of my eternally satisfying relationship with Him. The warmth of this realization drives out the chill of loneliness.