Softening solitude

Article recovered from archives of my old blog originally written on the 10th of September 2019. This article captures what the old me called a ‘journal entry’ and it is a fascinating time capsule of who I was at the time and what I was grappling with in my mind.

Solitude is my latest enemy.

I have been fighting him for around a year, and I think I’ve finally come a step closer to getting the knock-out. Don’t get me wrong, I am still in the first round of 12, and the scorecards are even, but It’s looking promising.

I only have three fears in this universe:

  • Spiders.
  • Heights.
  • Myself.

I once read that the greatest test of a man is how well he can sit with himself.

If I go by this, I am incredibly weak. I despise spending time alone. However, when the clock hits 5pm at the office, I want everyone, including myself, to stay. When I’m watching late night television with my friends, I don’t want the show to end. When the weekend creeps up, I don’t want to face it.

This is an unhelpul fear, because I’m heavily introverted, and naturally (should) enjoy spending time alone. However, when I’m in a bad head-space, I can’t think of anything worse.

I have conquered a multitude of other issues/fears/weaknesses in my emotional sphere, and this is my latest crusade.

In my recent, continued efforts of fighting this fight, I have decided to document my thoughts on solitude. Hopefully, I can help others. I know, though, that this will help myself. Writing always does.

Susan Orlean, in her book about the Los Angeles library fire, captures the magic of what libraries can offer. She describes walking through the empty library in Downtown LA, not a soul in sight, and feeling connected to all the different voices represented on the millions of pages that surround her.

A library is a good place to soften solitude. A place where you feel part of a conversation that has gone on for hundreds and hundreds of years even when you’re all alone. The library is a whispering post. You don’t need to take a book off the shelf to know there is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you, and behind that was someone who truly believed that if he or she spoke, someone would listen.

– Susan Orlean in her book about the Los Angeles library fire

Books are wonderful friends. They are always there. They speak wisdom, but offer their advice quietly. They have an unlimited capacity for listening. They offer so much and ask for essentially nothing in return.

We can say the same about philosophy, which, ironically, mostly comes to us (to begin with, anyway) in the fork of books.

Philosophy offers counsel.

– Seneca

Books and philosophy do not shout and cry. They give no personal attacks. They simply calls for you to be better. They’re there whenever and wherever you need them. It is the epitome of a true friend.

They soften our solitude.

Books are currently softening my solitude. Every time I have picked up a book, I have put it down feeling a little more full. Recently, it has almost felt like my elixir, and picking one up allows me to recharge.

When I don’t read. It’s my own fault. It is because I’m stuck in the sinking sands of depression and ‘the moment’. I need to pinch myself and wriggle out. I’m getting better, though.

I want to end this blog with a passage from my latest Daily Stoic read:

Books, especially those about philosophy, are that friend who should always be within arm’s reach, who we should turn to constantly. Today, when we have some downtime. Next week when we run into some trouble. In the morning when we are lonely or struggling to start the day. Pick up a book. Read a passage. Listen to the person who truly believed that if they spoke—if they wrote—someone would listen and that it would make a difference.

They weren’t wrong.

– Ryan Holiday in the Daily Stoic