In defense of solitude

“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

There are many things that have been said about Sartre’s philosophy. Prolific writer, activist, thinker – the quintessential 20th Century Frenchman. And from this quote, you have to believe that he enjoyed his alone time.

In solitude, you discover who you are. If you’re honest with yourself. You strip away the masks you wear for others, and in listening to that “still, small voice” you are able to be in touch with your true nature.

That’s no small feat. And when we’re constantly under bombardment from outside sources, retreating to solitude every once in a while is an important tactic to maintain our individuality… and our sanity.

Simple Things

“Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free.” – 19th Century Shaker Song

There is immense enjoyment in the simple task if you know how to look for it. Sipping coffee, brewing tea, or shaving, for example.

Not only can it be pleasurable, but it can also be meditative. In Thich Nat Hahn’s The Miracle of Mindfulness, he mentions a book of meditations titled The Essential Discipline for Daily Use. A book of small sentences designed for the reader to “take hold of his own consciousness.”

When the mind engages wholly in the simple task, then all troubles seem to fade away.

 

Big thoughts

Consider the single thought. A bit of synapse firing in the brain. This could be in response to a need – hunger, thirst, fight or flight. This could be the processing of a sense – smelling a flower, or seeing a rainbow. Maybe it’s working through a complex problem of some kind.

Steven Pressfield, in Do The Work, writes, “I was thirty years old before I had an actual thought. Everything up till them was either what Buddhists call “monkey-mind” chatter or the reflective regurgitation of whatever my parents or teachers said, or whatever I saw on the news or read in a book, or heard somebody rap about, hanging around the street corner.”

Thoughts are precarious, and when big thoughts come, grab them! I don’t know the first actual thought that I had. It’s possible I’m still waiting for it to come along. Sure, I get ideas, but they are just in the semblance of a thought – something half-formed.

So when those ideas pop up, nourish them. Bring them to fruition. And enjoy the freedom of a thinking that is higher-level.

Beware

Well, I missed the Ides of March. But what I’ve found more insidious is the barrenness of a busy life.

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates

There’s so many variables in the busy life, and yet it was the same 2,100 years ago as it is today. If we don’t make time for what’s important in our life, not only do we fill our time with the unimportant but we neglect what is truly vital. Thus our life is barren.

The Natural Imperative

How are we programmed to act?

If one had never seen a murder, heard of a murder, knew of the concept of murder – could that person then commit a murder?

If we were to follow our true spiritual instincts, the yearnings we have, where would it lead us?

Some would inevitably be killers. Some would be abusive. But, I wonder, is it a natural imperative, or a product of upbringing? Nature vs. nurture.

What if, for instance, everyone made the effort to treat children, all children, like their own? All children, regardless of race, creed, nationality, sexuality, intelligence, emotional deficiencies, behavioral problems, disabilities. Imagine what that would do for the children, and likewise what it would do to all who interacted with those children.

Wouldn’t children grow up to respect the older generations? Wouldn’t older generations respect a little more?

Yet it doesn’t shine a light on what the natural imperative is. What’s engrained in our biology, and what’s programmed into us through teaching and upbringing.

What is our natural system, in the absence of power struggles and fear?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about, and will continue to think about.

Purpose, it’s that little flame…

We’re here to learn, and these lessons are predetermined. It’s up to us to work through the past karmic debt we carry. We are all connected, aspects of an eternal force, the Godhead, Universe, or Source. We carry with us the possibility for understanding and love.

The meaning of life is to experience. It’s the only rational purpose I can assign to the mystery of it all. Why we suffer, why we grieve, why we continue to love and give of ourselves. It’s a spiritual existence having a temporary physical one.

In that interconnectedness, we must understand that what we do to others is manifest in what will happen to us. Karma. The golden rule. These are the elements of all faiths that show us that behaving well, caring for each other, is a righteous path.

The belief that power over others will somehow fulfill us causes us to seek out status. Financial gains, palatial estates, the ability to hire and fire as we see fit. An ego-driven force that tarnishes our spiritual efforts. 

We are born with a pervasive want, or need, driving us towards some goal. As children, I believe, we have a better grasp of who we are and our place in the Universe. It’s as we age, and become educated, that the neuroses begin to develop. What if we’re not good enough? What if we don’t succeed?

Yet, if happiness can be found in a job well done, and a life well lived, than the other trappings and accoutrement are superfluous.