“Why should I feel lonely? Is not our planet in the Milky Way?” — H. D. Thoreau
I am currently quite alone. I’m with only my self and my computer and occasionally the ragtag Middletown squirrel squad as I sit on this bench on Main Street. Now only the squirrels know I’m here, and after I leave, I will likely never even think about this particular expanse of solitude again. It does appear unnecessary, or unimportant, or something petty or rebellious as I evade the confines of my stupidly elite education.
But I am not alone with my self. I am also with my best friend and most loyal companion, who often follows me even to unpredictable and uninteresting corners of the world. As many have tried and usually failed, it is inevitable to avoid your own company. Literally, I speak of being without others, without speech or conflict or any reminder of societal struggles. Literally, I intend to describe this phenomenon of being “alone.” Figuratively, I am sharing a coffee from Brew Bakers with an individual who looks startlingly like me.
Now, there is an essential difference between this process of being “alone,” and that sick and sickening condition, loneliness. This is so important to distinguish. To be alone, as I would describe it, is a choice. It is an active and powerful decision, to become purposefully alone, if even for a short time. To choose to be alone is a great privilege. Every time you actively pursue spending time with another individual, you place tacit value on that relationship— eventually, this value cumulates to be known as friendship. However, we are often so busily creating and maintaining our relations (as important as they may be) that we neglect to place this same value upon our selves.
In contrast, loneliness is certainly dissimilar. Loneliness is to be alone without so choosing. Loneliness is abandonment, and very quiet, and sometimes far too quiet. Probably everyone has felt this before, as humans are rather social beasts and are wired to desire company amidst a crowd. Certainly there are circumstances where we would prefer to be in the company of others, and are frustratingly stuck with our selves. This can be quite extreme, even paralyzing. Loneliness, the man-killer, most synonymous with that word, desperation.
But I might argue that the leading cause of loneliness is a lack of self acquaintance, and thus the surest solution is that precisely: to choose to be alone. I must emphasize the active nature of this decision, because loneliness is otherwise desperation. To choose to be alone, as to choose actively your own company over that of others, is an enormous privilege and a path to something of self-acquaintance. You are the most vital person to your life. Who, more than you, merits your utmost time and attention?
I cannot define solitude for you. In my solitude, I choose often to write reflectively, as this is a selfish and constructive exercise that benefits only myself. Sometimes I walk, alone, hopefully with no destination in mind, but realistically on the way to lunch with my friends. We are busy creatures, individually too similar to that ragtag squirrel squad scurrying from place to place.
Scurry in solitude. I strive to be often alone but never lonely; to be self acquainted is to make a most powerful ally. Hand in hand, you and yourself have confidence to go anywhere, the resolve to resolve anything, and vitally, a sense of self-reliance. Just as my friend Kennedy says that fear can be your ally, solitude too can be your absolute and everlasting friend, if only you’ll choose to be alone.
TL;DR: Choose often to be alone, so as to never be lonely. And read solitude, again and again.