I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. ~Henry David Thoreau, “Solitude,” Walden, 1854
Language… has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone. ~Paul Johannes Tillich, The Eternal Now.
These two quotations sum up the thrust of my post.
My definition of loneliness is being uncomfortable when alone and, of solitude as being content and happy with oneself when alone.
I am never lonely. For some strange reason, reading books, listening to music, surfing the web etc when alone, are not considered to be truly living in solitude, by some of my friends who think that true solitude is to be completely isolated with nothing but nature to keep one company, like Thoreau experienced in Walden. I tell them that he had books to keep him company and I have the modern conveniences to do so. I add that with modern methods of communication, one can choose to be in company or not and that is precisely what solitude enables one to do.
The question then arises as to what one does if one prefers a life of solitude but is married. I was married for forty years, and still maintained that I could enjoy my solitude, or periods of it, despite my marriage, as did my late wife. This quotation says it so completely that no further elaboration is necessary. “In a soulmate we find not company but a completed solitude.” ~Robert Brault
Practically speaking, I enjoy my solitude most when I am meditating in the early mornings, solving crossword puzzles and reading books. I enjoy the banter and the company of my blog world as well as my real world, but there is only so much that I can take of that. After some time, I tire of such activity and prefer to return to my solitude. So much so, that a number of my friends now strongly believe that I am heading towards being a recluse. That does not bother me as much as it seems to bother them! To them I say that they are not worried that I will become a recluse as much as they worry that with my absence, they are afraid of being lonely! Neat, is it not?
How about you dear reader? Do you prefer solitude or are you afraid of loneliness?