The Flavors of Solitude

Solitude is not simply the state of being alone, it implies active insulation from the rest of humanity. Solitude has many flavors, characterized by what is avoided and what is missed.

The taste of solitude changes dramatically depending on whether one is stationary or in motion, isolated or ostracized. When you are stationary you can form a connection to a place, even if it’s just a rock in a meadow, and even if it’s just for a short time. You are somewhere, and it is a place that is yours. Sitting alone at your spot in a bar or in your comfy chair, solitude at rest is peaceful, a shelter.

Solitude in motion has a different flavor. No connectedness, no restfulness. There is a drive behind the motion, something disquieting that prevents rest, either a quest for something unattainable or a flight from something. The mind is at work, gnawing at itself, yearning for the unattainable. The only thing harder than moving on is staying put, for motion becomes the mechanism that enforces solitude. By never staying too long in one place, no attachments can form.

I heard an interview of a guy who spent five years riding freight cars, not knowing how he was going to eat that night when he woke up in the morning. He found a way to express his thoughts as he drifted, and published a book of poetry that made quite a bit of money. In the interview he said something like “I’ve been settled down for a few months now, but I’m going back out there soon. I feel the need growing in me.” Unasked, unanswered, unanswerable, is where the need comes from. Is life in mainstream society smothering him, threatening him, or just disappointing him?

Solitude is the state that allows the mind to turn inward. Free from the obligations that come with all human interaction, you can simply think. This is the essence and the allure of solitude, and also its curse. Free to think, there is no avoiding thought. ‘Curling up with a book’ is not solitude, even though you’re not with other people. You’re with a book. Solitude is the state when thoughts are free and unfettered, and consciously you have very little control over them. It is the state of complete personal honesty, when the thoughts happen that you will never tell anyone else. It is the time we dance with madness.

Artists are the ones with the courage to tell us what they saw there.

6 thoughts on “The Flavors of Solitude

  1. I even have two different flavors of stationary solitude in Rio Arriba County. The usual, I have the blinds open and watch the scenery while thinking. It doesn’t change so fast as it does while driving, but the light shifts on the mountains and meadows, and the occasional wildlife wanders by.

    The other flavor is when I leave the blinds shut. I light the candle in my waterfall, burn some incense, and just let the thoughts go. Some people (such as Pat) would wonder that I could leave the blinds shut and the scenery unenjoyed, but sometimes that kind of non-stimulus is what I need. I don’t really consider what I do to be meditation, but I guess it sort of is.

    Based on some of your recent posts, you may find some blinds-shut solitude to be refreshing. I detect some sensory overload.

  2. Carlo Anne, I traveled through New Mexico for the celebration Y2K. i loved it..Santa Fe was nice…but man…there were so many plces where I said “I really like it here…” I’ve seen most of America too…It’s the most underrated state…

    Rio Ariba sounds nice..

    I didn’t like Albuquerque but the north was sweet. Best moment was soaking, naked in a natural hot spings with a bunch of people, while the locals sat 20 yards up, drinking 40’s while they watched…

  3. Our well water is full of all sorts of minerals that people pay big bucks to take a bath in, in such places as Ojo Caliente and Pagosa Springs. That’s why I had a Jacuzzi put into the master bath when we had the cabin built.

  4. The solitude of sitting on one’s surfboard just outside the break zone, waiting for the larger set waves to come through. You can have 100 other surfers within a few dozen yards of you and still be… wonderfully alone.

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