photo & text by nacrowe
it feels like during the pandemic a fair amount of us garnered a new hard-earned appreciation for the daily rituals of public life. those mundane daily events like going to a grocery store or talking with your neighbors or even going to a movie or concert. the loss of that sense of INTERACTION with society since the pandemic began has been on my mind throughout, leading me to realize how ISOLATED i felt.
reading SEEK YOU: A JOURNEY THROUGH LONELINESS (PANTHEON, 2021) BY KRISTEN RADTKE was quite an affecting experience. the graphic novel is an extended meditation on the PHYSIOLOGICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL, TECHNOLOGICAL and CULTURAL phenomena that make AMERICAN life such a uniquely isolating experience. it really is a deep dive into how LONELINESS works and the myriad ways it affects our MENTAL HEALTH and PHYSICAL WELL-BEING. i could go down the list of all the studies cited and heart-wrenching anecdotes shared throughout the book, but instead i will just make a general statement: everything comes down to EMPATHY. the idea of sharing and having reciprocated our values, aspirations, disappointments, obstacles and successes in the eyes of others is essentially to our sense of identity with a communal context. corrosive POLITICAL DEBATES, SOCIAL MEDIA ALGORITHMS, MORTGAGE PAYMENTS, FAMILIAL RESPONSIBILITIES, NORMATIVE GENDER PRESCRIPTIONS, etc. all rope is into an intense INTERIORITY that is difficult to break free from. in essence our personal SUFFERING gets in the way of our ability to see through the bullshit and EMPATHIZE with one another.
i have had the pleasure of working abroad in the developing world and i have long been struck by the strong communal ties therein. specifically in NIGERIA and MYANMAR there was a sense of being a valued member of a community (usually tribal) that went beyond one's INTELLECT, WEALTH or POLITICAL POWER. i often wonder being back stateside how much one's ECONOMIC STANDING plays into our sense of identity and ability to EMPATHIZE with one another. my instinct is that such is paramount. reading SEEK YOU: A JOURNEY THROUGH LONELINESS i was interested in hearing about that aspect but it never came up.
i feel this graphic novel is a transformative achievement and something i will be revisiting and referencing from here on out. this review most definitely did not do justice to the length and breadth of the ideas presented therein, but it showcases where my head is at relative to it at this moment in time. i cannot advocate for this book strongly enough. it is PROVOCATIVE and deeply AFFECTING as it touches a subject nobody wants to acknowledge in AMERICAN society: the fact that we celebrate our ALIENATION and ISOLATION from each other and pay the price on the other end with devastating consequences.
in my opinion SEEK YOU: A JOURNEY THROUGH LONELINESS is required reading. definitely wort checking out.