I believe in solitude, particularly the kind that leads to reverie.
Nowadays, we are constantly bombarded with distractions – everything from junk mail to spam e-mail; from loud tv commercials to spastic internet pop-up ads; from over-sized billboards to human ad peddlers on street corners. These distractions interrupt us and dictate on their terms what we should be thinking about. We are seldom afforded the opportunity to think about what we want to think about.
I first became aware of the virtues of solitude in grad school. Before then, I was extremely socially conscious and mindful of what others thought. I would even sometimes skip meals at the dining hall lest I be spotted eating alone by someone I knew. Then, I met someone in my department who was clearly a loner. I sometimes used to see him eating alone in restaurants and would feel sorry for him. At one point I even thought he was shameless for being seen eating alone so often. After a few inevitable conversations with him in the hallways of our department, it quickly became apparent that he was extremely smart, thought differently, and had a unique point of view. My pity for him quickly turned into respect for his opinions. My admiration was rooted in his courage to be alone and think independently. And then I realized that his penchant for solitude wasn’t a coincidence either.
While I believe in solitude in general, I’ve found that nothing fosters reverie like solitude experienced in nature. Most of us seldom get enough time to begin to appreciate nature in our digital age. There’s something about just being alone outside in nature that fosters reflection. Its no wonder that we as a society seem to be indifferent to the perils facing our environment.
With ceaseless distractions leading to an absence of independent thought, we invariably begin to think like everyone. After all, when are we to think independently and form our own opinions if we are constantly distracted? And when everyone thinks alike, no one thinks much at all.
Now I’m not anti-social at all. I value and appreciate friends and family just as much as anyone. But I believe just as strongly in taking the time to be alone and think freely. You’d be surprised at just how many great ideas you have if you gave yourself a chance to create them. When I’m not taking the time to be alone, I’ve learned to seek out those with a penchant for solitude. I always seem to learn something from them. This I believe.
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