“In the morning–solitude; . . . that nature may speak to the imagination,
as she does never in company.” Pythagoras
“In the 20th century, the idea of solitude formed the centre of Hannah Arendt’s thought. A German-Jewish émigré who fled Nazism and found refuge in the United States, Arendt spent much of her life studying the relationship between the individual and the polis. . . . She understood that freedom entailed more than the human capacity to act spontaneously and creatively in public. It also entailed the capacity to think and to judge in private, where solitude empowers the individual to contemplate her actions and develop her conscience, to escape the cacophony of the crowd—to finally hear herself think. . . . In our hyper-connected world, a world in which we can communicate constantly and instantly over the internet, we rarely remember to carve out spaces for solitary contemplation. We check our email hundreds of times per day; we shoot off thousands of text messages per month; we obsessively thumb through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, aching to connect at all hours with close and casual acquaintances alike. . . . We crave constant companionship. But, Arendt reminds us, if we lose our capacity for solitude, our ability to be alone with ourselves, then we lose our very ability to think. We risk getting caught up in the crowd. We risk being ‘swept away,’ as she put it, ‘by what everybody else does and believes in’—no longer able, in the cage of thoughtless conformity, to distinguish ‘right from wrong, beautiful from ugly.’ Solitude is not only a state of mind essential to the development of an individual’s consciousness—and conscience—but also a practice that prepares one for participation in social and political life. Before we can keep company with others, we must learn to keep company with ourselves.” Jennifer Stitt
“Flee, my friend, into your solitude! I see you dazed by the noise of men . . . .” Frederich Nietzsche
“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home.
You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”
Jesus, in John 16:32 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Many of us are confined at home with others. If that’s you, how can you make a plan “to escape the cacophony of the crowd?”
- Others are home by ourselves but with lots of distractions. Instead of constantly seeking connection, can you try to learn from Jesus, to be “not alone” even when friends are unavailable?
- Some important things never happen “in company.” Can you imagine some important changes in your life that could happen simply because of enforced solitude? . . . values rediscovered? . . . “normalcy” redefined? . . . new intimacy with the God who is present in the stillness?
Abba, I choose the solitude that is forced upon me, and want to welcome it’s priceless gifts.
For More: Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton