Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone, and the only one who seeks out another. His nature, if that word can be used in reference to man, who has ‘invented’ himself by saying ‘no’ to nature, consists in his longing to realize himself in another. Man is nostalgia and a search for communion. Therefore, when he is aware of himself he is aware of his lack of another, that is, of his solitude.
I’ve been thinking a lot about solitude lately…about the dichotomy of being a solitary being and yet living amongst others. And what seems particularly relevant now is how we balance the need to honor and respect ourselves and honor and respect others. These are crazy times—we’ve got trigger warnings, safe spaces, and at the same time widespread vulgarity and aggression. We believe we have the right, and sometimes even responsibility, to say what we want to say, but we can often be dismissive of what others say—particularly if the opinion expressed reflects a belief contrary to ours.
I think we’ve lost touch with the “profoundest fact” of solitude and the importance of mindful contemplation. It is our inner discontent and inner-disconnect—when projected outward—that creates so much chaos in our world. Perhaps, if we could take some time and “wander lonely as a cloud”, as Wordsworth writes so beautifully, we could reconnect with ourselves. And maybe, with a little more conscious solitude—and self-awareness, self-love and self-compassion, we could learn how to have a more civil society.