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Solitude as a Path Forward

“Society is the cave. The way out is solitude.” — Simone Weil

We know, deep down, that our way is found in the quiet moments. It’s so easy to be caught up in the expectations and scandals of society, so easy to trap ourselves in the words so tightly shaped around the stories of our lives, that we might never really fly. Yet we must fly, whatever our flight path may be, if we are to get out of that cave. How many countless souls never fly?

We grow up hearing we might be odd if we aren’t part of the group. As adults we hear that we’re either in the collective party of the righteous or there’s something suspicious and odd about us. To be a part of the tribe we must participate in the rituals of the tribe. And so we all fall in line, find our career path, work to strengthen our relationships, build our bridges, marry up and in, and then have kids and place them carefully into the right environments to maximize their own potential in society.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a part of things. We learn and grow in society. We play our part and find meaning through our connection with others. We meet people who help transform us from what we were to what we might become. We rightfully celebrate our place in society and the people who are woven into the fabric of our lives.

One might point to the social structure as the clearest way to find our place in this world. We get in the mix, bounce ideas off each other, collaborate, feed off the energy in the room, get a leg up with the help of others, and so on. And indeed, so it is that we thrive in a world built on maximizing the contribution of the individual for the benefit of our collective future together.

But if there’s a shared secret we all know, it is the critical nature of solitude in finding our own path forward. It’s the voice inside your head saying, “And what of me?” We can’t really make out what that voice is saying until we step away from the din. What we find, if we are so audacious as to listen, is that that voice has a lot to say.

Is it narcissistic to ask such questions? Parts of society would shout down such selfish ideas. The very idea of contemplation and individuality are reckless and dangerous in many corners of this world. But is it selfish to seek solitude, or selfless to find places to reflect? We don’t run away from society, we stride boldly towards ourselves. The boldest ideas are conceived in solitude.

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