Every Saturday without fail, my family journeys to one of my brother’s sports games, whether this means freezing at a soccer game on a chilly fall morning or practically suffocating in a smelly gym during a wrestling meet. But I am the only one who remains isolated from this group pilgrimage, instead resting in our quiet darkened house. This decision, to remain alone, is entirely my choice.
For I believe in the power of solitude, the cleansing ability for self-reflection that is only available when one is alone. Admittedly, humans are social creatures that thrive on the company of others. But there are certainly times when we need to be solitary, when we must escape the demands of the world surrounding us. Only solitude offers a fulfilling, albeit temporary, retreat from the problems of life that plague us.
Obviously, with solitude, there’s an opportunity to be lazy and do nothing, and I’ve certainly languished many afternoons before the addicting shimmer of a television screen. But I also get my best thoughts when I’m alone, when I’m not worried about pleasing the people around me. Once, when I had to write a journal full of poems during freshman year, it was impossible to work in public, as the mere presence of others disrupted my creative process. I could only write expressive and beautiful poems when I was completely alone. For then, my thoughts and emotions were my sole companions, and they consequently directed the stream of my words flowing onto the page. The solitude I willingly immersed myself in allowed me to become highly attuned to my own personality, to make an attempt at understanding the complexities of my mind.
This potential, for fulfillment, for self-comprehension, is the true consequence of solitude. And this capacity for understanding fosters further discovery of the meaning of life, which can have even more positive consequences for us. In “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Morrie himself noted this, saying, “because if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward.” Morrie was correct in claiming that this meaning allows us to live and to look beyond the regrets of the past for the possibilities of the future. But he overlooked the integral role that solitude plays in this process of living.
Because solitude allows us to actually open up to ourselves and be vulnerable, providing the needed opportunity to examine our lives. Obviously, not everyone should embrace being alone to the extent that they run off and live stranded in the woods as ascetics. But solitude is essential for self-understanding, often providing a quiet environment away from the demands and challenges of others. When I stay at home each Saturday, no matter whether I mindlessly flip television channels or lie quietly and think, I come closer to appreciating, to comprehending, myself. For I believe in the ultimate power of solitude, to help us better understand ourselves, to make easier the process of finding meaning in our lives.
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