ODE TO SOLITUDE
Solitude and loneliness
Are far from the same.
Solitude is exquisite pleasure;
Loneliness, excruciating pain.
My name is Ben and…I am a GREGARIOUS HERMIT. There, I’ve said it. Every day, for as far back as I can remember, I’ve been an enthusiastic, social animal who also has a hankering for lots of peaceful, productive, joyful solitude.
Research psychologist Esther Buchholz, counseled in “The Call of Solitude” (Psychology Today, January 1998), that spending time alone can enhance intimacy with others and regenerate one’s positive spirit. Buchholz said, “What’s really blocking our joy in relationships, our creativity and our peace of mind? One surprising answer, in this age of alienation, is a lack of solitude…alone time is fuel for life.”
Solitude is treasured and protected by many creative people and an important aspect of every joyous life.
The megastar songbird Celine Dion chirped, “Some people can’t stand being alone. I love solitude and silence. But when I come out of it, I’m a regular talking machine. It’s all or nothing for me.”
Celine and I are so much alike.
Also, one of Hollywood’s genuinely nice people — yes, there is one — Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, told a reporter, “There’s a difference between solitude and loneliness. I can understand the concept of being a monk for a while.”
Celine, Tom and I should get “GREGARIOUS HERMIT” T-shirts. Three outgoing peas in a peace-loving pod of solitude.
The loquacious American hero of gregarious hermits, Henry David Thoreau, famously said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Blogger Darya Sinusoid, in a posting titled, “The Benefits of Solitude: Being Alone is Good for You” (shortform.com) reminds us, “The great philosophers Immanuel Kant, Rene’ Descartes and Friedrich Nietzsche had no family and few friends but used solitude to live productive, notable lives.”
S.U.N.S SOLITUDE is a positive choice that allows you to be away from the demands and distractions of others. Though one of the main reasons to regularly carve out some alone time for yourself is that it enhances your relationships with others.
Using the four elements of “The S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) Joyous Aging System,” let’s reinforce the importance of solitude for greater joy.
SMILE-MAKING SOLITUDE is blissful isolation. When you sense you are feeling a bit stressed, simply take yourself out of the busyness, calm the “monkey brain,” remove the stressors and regain mental and emotional calm.
Solitude allows you to add positivity to each of your senses. You hear your own, positive thoughts. You feel surrounded by joy. You see your life with renewed clarity and happiness. Things even smell and taste better after some relaxing “me time.”
UNITING & SOLITUDE Yes, those words seem oxymoronic but spiritual leaders from Jesus of Nazareth to the Buddha spent lots of time alone in prayer and meditation, thinking of others. Choosing some positive time to be with your thoughts allows you to be more loving, more appreciative and more understanding.
The world will continue to turn on its axis even when you unplug to sip a cuppa and savor some calm. It is good to feel we matter and are making a positive difference, but it is also good to not feel desperately indispensable and value the contributions of those around us.
NEIGHBORING & SOLITUDE Removing yourself from the hurly-burly of society allows you to view others from a more objective distance. Solitude is important for spiritual leaders, and it is also important for societal leaders. Sociologists often study the behavior of groups by being embedded within an organization but then retreat to analyze their findings and think up solutions to social problems. Innovators and inventors value solitude as much as writers, artists and creative workers.
Fashion design legend Yves Saint Laurent, said, “I live in solitude. I have need of solitude to do the next day’s work. I can’t be to parties where the noise tires me. I can’t speak on the telephone. I must have complete calm.”
St. Laurent’s work was the NEIGHBORING mission of “dressing the tribe.”
Abraham Lincoln, who had the task of calming the neighbor-fighting-neighbor, warring, American tribes, regularly cleared his thinking by retreating from the hubbub of the White House “fishbowl” to a quiet cottage in the woods outside Washington, D.C. There, alone, President Lincoln pondered the question of how to keep a deeply divided country from collapsing.
SPELLBINDING SOLITUDE allows you to lose yourself in a meditative flow with the universe. As Salman Rushdie proclaimed, “What one writer can make in the solitude of one room is something no power can destroy.”
Quietly, far from the maddening crowd, you are listening to your soul and not simply following the script and priorities of someone else. In a Harvard University study conducted by Bethany Burum, she found that people retain memories better when they believe they are the only one doing something rather than simply duplicating a task.
Being alone does not mean being a loser; it can often be where you find your true passion. Solitude is where you have a greater chance of understanding what you value and of being guided by your unique purpose in living.
S.U.N.S. SOLITUDE may not be possible for you each busy day, but “micro-solitude” could still be a way to add joy to your daily life. This would only require you to have the discipline to opt for the SMILE-MAKING choice of a few moments of alone “me time” away from others—turn off your distracting devices and simply—be.
THE JOY-RONTOLOGIST RECOMMENDS: Exploring all the helpful tips in Michael Pietrzak’s Success Magazine (June 2019) feature article, but here are some highlights to help you find solitude amidst the chaos:
- GET UP EARLY—Enjoy a calmer world before the buzz of all the emails and texts. You’ll be in great company with these early-rising achievers: Richard Branson (Virgin), Oprah, Tim Cook (Apple), Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo).
- RUN, WALK or BIKE—When you strap on your running shoes or climb onto your bike to leave your house and explore the world, your mind quiets and you get a new perspective rather than the one sitting at your desk. Go alone. Don’t listen to music or audiobooks. Leave your phone at home. Get into nature and away from others.
- DAYDREAM—Our subconscious mind is the source of much of our creativity, and tapping into this inborn talent is really the only way to do great work. Who daydreams? Well, Albert Einstein for one.
- DRIVE ALONE—Here, the writer of the Success Magazine article quotes Aldous Huxley: “The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.” Who drives alone? Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, at age 58, took a 10,000-mile road trip with his poodle, Charley, and together they wrote a best seller.
- MAKE A RESTAURANT RESERVATION FOR ONE—Who eats out alone? Renee Zellweger, Daniel Radcliffe, Tom Hanks (that gregarious hermit) and even Bill Clinton have been photographed dining alone. If it’s good for these very popular peeps, it’s good for you.
- GO CAMPING ALONE—We’re looping back to Henry David Thoreau, who said, “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
SOLITUDE ODES FROM OTHERS
“I live in that solitude that is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.”—Albert Einstein
“I remember when I was a child…walking into the woods by myself and feeling the solitude around me build like electricity and pass through my body with a jolt that made my hair prickle.”—Marilynne Robinson
“A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.”—Percy Bysshe Shelley
“Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doing of your choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.”—Alice Koller
“Solitude begats whimsies.”—Mary Wortley Montagu
“Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.”—James Russell Lowell
“Solitude is un-American.”—Erica Jong
SOLITUDE & LAUGHTER
Mahatma Gandhi, the great leader of India, is quoted as saying, “Solitude is a catalyst to innovation.” He believed one needed to retreat to a quiet place alone and be with one’s thoughts. Gandhi often walked barefoot for miles to find solitude. The soles of his feet became quite thick and hard. Being a spiritual person, he ate very little and often fasted when he was alone. As a result, he was thin and frail. Furthermore, due to his diet, even he was aware of his bad breath. Though revered for his courage and wisdom, ultimately, he came to be known as a super callused, fragile mystic plagued with halitosis.
(Solitary confinement may be too good for me after that pun. However, Mahatma Gandhi, who died in 1948, likely knew of the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious “Mary Poppins” books by P.J. Travers, since the first was published in 1934.)
JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK
Aug. 20—Demi Lovato
Aug. 21—Wilks Chamberlain
Aug. 22—Dorothy Parker
Aug. 23—Gene Kelly
Aug. 24—Dave Chapelle
Aug. 25—Leonard Bernstein
Aug. 26—Will Shortz
MACKEREL AVOCADO BOAT FOR ONE—NEW HAMPSHIRE
Each week, “The JOYrontologist” shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. This delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life.
- 1 (5 oz.) can mackerel
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1/3 cup celery finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. red onion minced (1 small slice)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a medium bowl, combine mackerel, celery and onion.
- Slice the ripe avocado in half and remove pit.
- Fill the avocado halves with the filling.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve one immediately, then cover and chill the other for later. Cooking for one has never been easier.
1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS FROM MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued)
730. “Single Ladies” by Beyonce
731. Learning to play solitaire one summer in Auburn
732. “Ode to Solitude” by Alexander Pope
733. “One Sun,” a show I curated for the Birmingham Art Council
734. “Bowling Alone,” by Robert Putnam
735. One and done
736. Red solo cups
737. “One River,” the original and exquisite guitar music of my friend, Henry Scott
738. Single servings of something scrumptious
739. Being one of a kind and creating one of a kind
740. “One Life to Live,” daytime soap opera
741. Napoleon Solo played by Robert Vaughn on “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
742. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” with Jack Nicholson
743. Han Solo played by Harrison Ford in “Star Wars”
744. Being alone on your own clock in a museum
745. “Going Solo,” by Eric Klinenberg
746. Dancing to “One Fine Day” by The Chiffons
748. “A Single Man” directed by Tom Ford, starring Colin Firth
749. A fireside dinner for one at the NYC restaurant, One if by Land, Two if by Sea
750. Binge-watching whatever-the-heck you want to all day
751. “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
HAPPY NEW WEEK OF JOYFUL SHARING & SOLITUDE!
Read all the installments in this series at www.cullmantribune.com/tag/odes-to-joy-2022.