Keep Thy State
“To wish to escape from solitude is cowardice.” — Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
“At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Being an advocate for solitude doesn’t mean one is antisocial, it means embracing the potential of the moment. We ought to embrace our time alone, and stop reaching for distraction at any sign of discomfort with the practice. Solitude isn’t the same thing as loneliness, they’re quite the opposite of one another. We can be alone and be productive with the circumstance, or retreat into the comfortable friction of others. We aren’t bait fish, friends, there may be anonymity in numbers, but that isn’t safety, merely avoidance.
Writing requires solitude—there’s no getting around it. We must wrestle with our thoughts without interruption if we hope to mine anything of consequence from ourselves. Most of us don’t have the luxury of a cabin in the woods in which to dream and scheme. We seek the edges of the day and make them ours. Some of us thrive early in the morning, others late at night. The time is inconsequential, it’s the willingness to tap into the moment that matters most.
Solitude is a productive state of being in a world intent on drawing you back to the pack. Solitude isn’t retreating into our selves, it’s a deep conversation with an old friend, the one who knows all our traits and sticks with us anyway. We only have so many such moments in a day or in a lifetime, and ought to explore them fully. The best thing about writing is sharing a wee bit of that with a few interested collaborators. In that respect, we transcend aloneness completely.