“…And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is some thing in you that wants to move out of it. …. the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other. … Letters to a Young Poet Rainer Maria Rilke”
“These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”
People enjoy discussing (ironically) the distinction between solitude and loneliness. I’ve heard several of these arguments — first in high school when my teacher was trying to explain the importance of solitude to poets (especially, it seemed, during the Romantic Period). I remember standing up for solitude and trying to explain it, but ultimately all I wanted to do was get home and go for a run in The Bluffs with my dog and my best friend and her dog. I always felt pushed against a wall in those discussions
I’m comfortable with solitude, though when I was younger I felt very strongly the pressure that exists to have friends and a social life. Over time I began to see that’s society’s idea of “normal” because it’s probably what makes most people happy, but I have never been the kind of person that a lot of people even like. I have never really “fit in.” I’ve been accused of being “rebellious” but I’m not; there is just a kind of belief that if a person is not like the others he or she is doing it “on purpose.” I never was. I just always have had a different set of intrinsic motivations. I never wanted a family and children; in fact, that whole idea disgusted me from the get-go. I don’t dispute that raising children well is a major success, but when people complain about the difficulty, my teeth itch and I think, “Shut up, fool. It was your choice.” For that matter, I spent my working years preparing other people’s children for adulthood and I loved my job.
I never got the idea about material success. I just didn’t get it. I am not ambitious, though I’ve had a few ambitions. If it’s because I had the opportunity to watch my dad’s struggle with a degenerative and fatal disease which taught me early the futility of much of human endeavor, I don’t know. I don’t honestly think so. I think it’s genetic. The times I tried hardest to fit the mold led me to my life’s greatest misery, but I fought it a long time, until I recognized that social interaction — at a certain point — bored and tired me and I was happier with a balance; 75% solitude, 25% socialization.
“Most of my wandering in the desert I’ve done alone. Not so much from choice as from necessity – I generally prefer to go into places where no one else wants to go. I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.” Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. William Cullen Bryant, “Thanatopsis”
The friend I could always rely on has been the companion to many in their solitude and that is nature. Nature has always had the power to intensify and open a solitary moment; it seems capable of sharing it. It’s enough just to cross the little Monte Vista Golf Course, into and through the bottom of the driving range (pasture) into the open fields, past the log buildings of the old broken down farm, until there is nothing but sky, mountains, changing light, wind — a storm front or a sweet breeze. Step by step I feel my heart fill, my shoulders relax leaving only joy at being out under the open sky, ringed by mountains, in the infinite space of the natural world. There have been a few friends in my life with whom I’ve been able to share that experience and I’m grateful for having known them. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to share ones solitude.