The Young Pope Is Lonely


Graham Sedam, blog, thoughts, life, interests, writing, The Young Pope is Lonely, HBO, loneliness, television, Catholicism, religion, being alone, thinking out loud, pondering, thought diarrhea
Earlier this year, my wife and I watched an HBO show called The Young Pope. At first, I liked it because of its oddness and frankness, but overtime, the story started to grow on me in a way that I never expected. The first two episodes were interesting, but it wasn't until about halfway through the season that I realized how much I looked forward to watching it and not just because it was the series we were currently watching.

I was expecting it to be different than it was. My thinking going into it was that the young pope would be hip and with the times and buck tradition, giving the old guys heartburn just worrying about what he'll change. And while there is a certain amount of "giving old guys heartburn," it's not what you'd think.

It shouldn't be a surprise that religious topics are a big focus of the show, but I personally didn't feel there was any grandstanding. To me, the show approached these in more of a cerebral acknowledgement of issues plaguing mankind and not so much about preaching a correct way. The fact that there are always two or more sides being represented helps. The show never sets out to give a definitive answer. The show is about the pope and the people around him. How could it not touch upon the struggles to have the correct, moral answers?

I don't want to give too much away, but there's also a "mystical" aspect to the show. This aspect adds to the richness of the story as it's slowly revealed over the season. Once again, the show doesn't try to push Catholicism. I've seen other shows (Vikings, most recently) that have toyed with this same concept and, in my opinion, has given the stories' world an air of wonder that just can't be produced without the involvement of the divine. I figure, if I can step outside the realm of reality and watch things like Harry Potter, why not this?

My perspective on the show is also influenced by the fact that I was raised Roman Catholic, went to parochial school K–12, and even served a stint as an altar boy. A few episodes or so into the show, I asked my wife, who was raised Lutheran, if she thought our experience watching the show was different because of this. She felt it was. While both religions are based in Christianity, they are quite different in many ways. I can only imagine that if I were watching a show about a fictional scenario in the upper echelons of the Lutheran church, I'd be less informed of the intricacies. I wouldn't understand it in quite the same way. I can also assume that when I watched the HBO show, Big Love, years ago when it aired, I would have had a different experience than a Mormon viewer.

Jude Law and the rest of the cast certainly brought a depth to the show I wasn't expecting. Yes, it's religion. Yes, it's politics. Yes, it has a cast of proven actors. But despite this, there was a pervasive "something" that permeated the show, overtook the dramatical commonalities we get used to. Part of that came from it being written and directed by an Italian. I understood this "something," but it wasn't until I read an article about the show's last episode that it really sank in. The article's topic seems to make more and more sense to me as I have thought about the show over time. The underlying theme that seems to leave no character behind is loneliness, the sadness that tends to follow, and our need to be loved and accepted. I know. It seems simple.

While it should be obvious that I wasn't oblivious to what was taking place during the show—along with the feelings of the characters—this concept/idea wasn't present in the front of my mind. I was so wrapped up in the other aspects of the show that I didn't give that one unifying theme the attention it warranted. Maybe, that was how the show was conceived and meant to be experienced. A snowball that hits you at the bottom of the hill. It was just a canvas in the back of my mind on which to paint the details, not seeing the picture until it was complete.

Which made me think and think some more about loneliness and the different perceptions one can have when it comes to the idea of being lonely, about the idea of feeling lonely amongst others, about the fact that everyone has felt that feeling before at some point in their lives, about how some people feel that way everyday no matter what. Considering the majority of the characters in the show have taken vows that do not allow for relationships beyond a friendship, it's not hard to believe that there could be a culture of loneliness in this particular group of men and women. But, it's important to keep in mind that this is a TV show and not a documentary. Speculation is one thing, truth is another. Regardless, it's not a stretch.

Graham Sedam, blog, thoughts, life, interests, writing, The Young Pope is Lonely, HBO, loneliness, television, Catholicism, religion, being alone, thinking out loud, pondering, thought diarrhea
And then, I thought about loneliness some more and my brain started producing Thought Diarrhea, which I will transcribe for you now, reader.

No one person can ever truly know us. Some know us more than others, but no one can know us completely. And maybe, that's where loneliness is born? From the time we emerge as an idea until the day we are no longer living, there is a loneliness that permeates every facet of our lives, and it ebbs and flows with each unique day and environment. We can forget this loneliness from time to time, taking comfort in connections we make with others or when our minds are deeply entrenched within an activity or thought, but it's always there waiting for the moments we are alone and silent with nothing to distract us. No one can escape loneliness. It is always there within us.

What I'm speaking about here is not clinical depression or a whole pantheon of mental conditions. What I'm talking about is the base part of everyone's mind, the part our whole life builds upon. The self we know in its entirety.  The self no one else could ever completely understand, no matter how hard they tried, no matter how much they could relate. Memories may be fleeting, but those neural connections always leave a permanent mark, a weight upon our 'soul.'

And then, my Thought Diarrhea turned into how I relate to loneliness and the concept of being alone.

I, too, like all humans (Dare I say, all LIVING things? Do I dare dare further and say, NONLIVING things as well?) have experienced loneliness, but like a fraction of humans, I thrive on having time alone. Loneliness and being alone are two completely different spheres of being. So, why am I bringing this up? Because, it isn't so obvious to some people. To some people, not being around others is an annoyance. To some people, not being in a relationship or actively looking for a partner is agony. Well, it's not that way for everyone. Perhaps, this need for others is a condition within itself for some, with deeper issues not being resolved. Everyone is different. Who's to say what's right? Maybe no one.

I am never more comfortable than when I am alone and lost in my thoughts. It's the most effective way for me to recharge and "do me," aka the creative (and noncreative) activities I enjoy doing, or the to-do items I need to cross off of my list. Now, this doesn't mean I don't like to be around other people. I like "other people" just fine. Also, I'm not anti-social as much as I like to have time to myself—as much as I can get.

When I met my wife, I had been living happily single for many years. So, when I realized how much she had grown on me over the less-than-a-year before we started "dating," and how I really, really wanted to spend my precious time with her, it made me take notice of what was happening. Whatever was going on was some potent stuff, not just a passing fancy. This was all one-sided at first (for various reasons), but she eventually understood what we had. Is this starting to sound creepy and all mind-game-y? Well, it wasn't. We are great together. That's what I whisper in her ear every night while she sleeps.

While my life has changed a lot in the last four years, I don't regret having less time alone. Becoming a husband and an instant father (and then a biological father a few years later) certainly has had its ups and downs, but my time has been a worthwhile sacrifice for them. I kind of like spending time with them, too, mostly. And really, considering time is the one thing we all have yet don't know how much we have, it seems fitting to be a sacrifice. When someone dies for someone else, it's seen as being the ultimate sacrifice. The 'sacrificer' is giving up their time for someone else. However, I'm not trying to elevate my "sacrifice" to an equal level of an admirable hero. I'm just making a small point.

Sure, I still need my alone time as much as the next person, but my family has made me better and stronger. I can honestly say that I'm a better person, not perfect, because of them. It does make the time I'm truly alone and in my element all the more special and important, and that has made me use my time in a much smarter and more productive way. My drive for my vision of success has increased. I want to be an inspiration to my family, and they inspire me to be the best I can be.

I believe that when a person has a strong sense of purpose and in turn is productive in that purpose, many things naturally fall into place: happiness, pride, confidence, goodwill and many other positive things. And with all of those things being in place, there's not a whole lot of room for loneliness to squeeze in. The Young Pope struggled with his purpose and his ability to be productive in his purpose. The Young Pope was lonely.



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