Solitude: To be endured or enjoyed?
By Nentapmun Gomwalk
We’ve all been alone in our lives. We are born alone and we die alone but in between that period we form bonds, friendships and relationships of every kind. Even when all these relationships are formed and there are people around us, the feeling of loneliness can creep in like a gecko on the wall.
The feeling of loneliness is not new to mankind. I believe it began in the Garden of Eden; Adam was alone and was given a companion because God said “it is not good for man to be alone”. We’re human; it is inherent for us to crave companionship. In Psychology, love and belonging is the third tier in the basic hierarchy of human needs. It is for this very reason that loneliness can seem so overwhelming and painful.
Loneliness today could range from starting school in a new state, changing offices, close friends relocating, being isolated or bullied or the emptiness in one’s heart even in a room full of people. There is a razor fine line between loneliness and solitude. The defining line is that loneliness can be molded into solitude and this ends up becoming productive. Loneliness on the other end is inherently crippling and can do little to no good. Even though it may seem daunting, loneliness is not something to be feared.
That’s easy to say, you may be thinking. I know it isn’t, trust me. I’ve learned that nothing in life is as simple as it seems, but we learn to deal with it for the sake of sanity. As the day rises, we rise with it to conquer!
Blaise Pascal wrote in 1654 that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I agree wholly with that statement. Sometimes, being alone makes our thoughts seem too loud, too aggressive and simply too real. Reality is harsh and occupying ones time with social activities or extraverted communication can bring a shush to those painfully real thoughts.
Other times, being alone reminds us of the true structure of life and of living. The world has existed for much longer than we can ever hope to live. There is already a design, a structure and a construct that has been built; when we are born we make a life around it even though it may not be to our taste. We are forced to make a home and make a life out of this pre-existing world.
It is true, loneliness is all of these things but that is why it must be channeled into solitude. Solitude is a choice that you can decide to make whenever you want, even if feelings of loneliness are imposed by others. Again, remember that while solitude can be a springboard to much greater things, loneliness may eventually bring nothing but heartache.
With that difference in mind, let’s move unto what I mentioned earlier: productive solitude. This is when you consciously decide to take time out to be alone and introspect. In moments of solitude and internal exploration we garner a relationship with ourselves. I think that establishing a good relationship with oneself stretches out to relationships with all other people. Think about it, most of our actions towards others are a projection of who we are and what we truly feel inside.
I know most of the agony of solitude is disconnecting from things like our phones, books, gossip with friends or whatever stimuli it is that fills our day, but solitude doesn’t necessarily entail an absence of any of these things.
I think another reason we should give solitude a chance is because it helps us define ourselves by ourselves. Being in groups can help us define ourselves but this can be dangerous. We should be able to find and define our own essence and create meaning for our lives.
I am Nigerian, I am a teacher, I am a Manchester United fan, I am a Muslim, I am Yoruba
Why must our definition of ourselves stem from whatever group we’re in? Productive solitude helps you explore parts of yourself that can help with self-definition. This process may be excruciating at first but becomes enjoyable and I dare say peaceful.
I guess it doesn’t hurt to say that great minds like Albert Einstein and Van Gogh gave the world their greatest and most creative work in solitude. Even if you aren’t essentially a “creative”, you can still benefit by being able to achieve better flow and clarity in whatever it is that you’re involved in..
When you find solitude, you escape from drinking directly from society’s well of social construct. Amongst a group of people, we act and live as those people do; we don’t really think as our own self. Let’s learn to take time for solitude, become better people and take control of the world!