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Loneliness is a person's longing for the divine. Every lonely person hopes to find the divine somewhere in something--most likely in another person or perhaps an animal. When a person cannot find someone like himself, or cannot see the divine in others, loneliness results.

In other words, a lonely person is looking for love.

How do you overcome loneliness? The answer is surprising. It is to live a structured life until loneliness is overcome. Structure overcomes loneliness.

Why? Because a well-ordered, structured life attracts others. Think about it: In any circle of friends, there is the organizer. This person acts like the hub of the wheel and the circle of friends are the spokes.

The organizer is the person that organizes other people's time by providing a time and a place for everyone to get together. Humanity is attracted to organized activity.

And activity is created by organization.

Take movies and public entertainments as an example-both are highly structured, imaginative enterprises. For this reason, they attract large audiences. People gather because these entertainments structure the imagination of every person present. Here again, structure drives out loneliness for all influenced by that structure.

There are profound reasons why a well-structured life overcomes loneliness. It's like this: A person who has no structure in their life will gravitate towards something that will provide that structure for him.

This is one reason why addiction to cigarettes and alcohol is so difficult to overcome. A cigarette or a drink can be like an old friend when no one else is willing to be a friend. Cigarettes require constant attention. A cigarette is a friend that organizes one's time. Cigarettes provide structure.

Why? Because a cigarette demands attention with a certain periodicity just like a newborn baby requires a feeding schedule. Structured, periodic activity drives out loneliness.

Alcohol plays the same role by eating up enormous blocks of time. People are most likely to seek the friendship of alcohol around holidays and celebrations because this is the time they feel most lonely.

Television can also be a friend. Television is highly structured. Each show has a beginning, a middle, and an end. When the show ends, another show starts right on schedule. Like alcohol, television can serve the purpose of a friend that structures enormous blocks of time.

Pets also provide structure--a very positive structure. The love and care that one gives to a pet on a daily basis--walking the dog, feeding the cat--drives out loneliness very effectively. Pets are love. Love creates structure.

If you feel lonely, start by imagining a plan. Plan the day in front of you. This gives your day structure. As you fill your day with structure, you will drive out loneliness.

As you fill your day with structure, you fill your day with activity. As you fill your day with structure and activity, you end up filling your day with people.

It takes imagination to create a structured life from nothing but it can be done. An odd thing happens when you start to plan. People start calling on the telephone; people start to make contact with you. It's as if the structure of your plan is drawing them in.

It matters not that your plans are for solitary activities. You plan to be alone, yet other people are drawn to your plan. It's as if an organized imagination attracts other imaginations. It's then that people call.

Start to organize something and others will respond.

Look around you. See the people who have many friends. Note that these people live well-ordered lives. It's often that simple. Rather than waiting for their place of employment or an entertainment or a nightclub to structure their lives for them, these people plan their own lives.

On the other hand, people who have no close friends are often highly chaotic. They've not yet learned how to use their imagination to lead a self-directed life. They don't know how to call the shots with their imagination.

All underlying structure starts in the imagination. Structure attracts other people. Start there. Start to structure your time with your imagination to overcome loneliness.

But don't overlook the fact that the highest form of structure is love for the divine. Love brings order and structure to all things. When you see all in your imaginative eye with the eye of love, you are well on your way to a highly structured life full of friendship and love.

©Edward Abbott 2002-2005