Monday, August 3, 2009


It’s an outdated term these days, associated with the negative. It implies loneliness more than it does privacy or seclusion.

Being alone, especially being lonely, is not a popular state of being out there in the big world.

We are told we should be dating if we are single, we’re told we should be stimulating our children and interacting with them constantly if we are in a family, we’re told to romance our partners and find out what they are feeling if we are in a relationship. Even on our own, popular new age philosophy urges us to contact a higher being.

Well what if I don’t want some snoopy higher entity sharing my space? Honestly, what I want right now is just a little bit of piece and quiet. Solitude. Hmmm. To me it is a magical word full of mystery and quiet contemplation. Alluring.

The closest I seem to get to gazing at my navel these days is when I lock the kids out of the toilet. “Mum!” they holler. “Just give me a minute!” I holler back. Not likely.
Back in the day I believe solitude was a more acceptable state of being. Lonely romantic poets sought it out to write their private thoughts in to what are now some of the most well known verse on the planet.

I’m sure back then though, as now, solitude was a bit of a luxury. All those people living in one room huts, sharing their beds with 10 children and 168 fleas, their lounge rooms with chickens and pigs. It was all very communal wasn’t it? And smelly.

I’m not saying I want to be on my own all the time. But when you are surrounded by kids and jobs and television and blaring radios and persistent internet chatters... sometimes you just need a break. To stare in to space. To stare at a wall. To rearrange your sock drawer. To rearrange your attitude. To look inside for a while.

As with all states of being though, there is an up side and a down. As our population ages, many are left with all too much time on their own. Many men and women outlive their partners, are isolated from their families and don’t or can’t make the effort to join in community activities. It can be a scary thing, walking in to a group of quilters or fronting up to silver surfers. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

I guess, as with all things, we just need to find a balance.

Emily Dickinson had this to say:

There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself –
Finite infinity.

And Keats:

To Solitude
O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murly buildings: climb with me the steep, -
Nature's observatory - whence the dell,
In flowery slopes, its river's crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
'Mongst boughs pavilion'd, where the deer's swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.
But though I'll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refined,
Is my soul's pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

John Keats . 1796-1820

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