The Solitary Life

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I recently wrote about Kahlil Gibran and solitude. While many sages and seers have claimed there is something preferable in the solitary life, I’m skeptical of overemphasizing the need for it. We are social beings and there is much evidence that loneliness is a major problem in the modern world.

Still, there has been a lot written lately about the benefits of the solitary life, or at least one with sufficient solitary time. (Note though that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the barbaric torture of solitary confinement.) Here are a few recent short articles on the topic:

The pursuit of loneliness: how I chose a life of solitude” (The Guardian)

The Virtues of Isolation“(The Atlantic)

Embracing a Life of Solitude“(The New York Times)

The Paradox of Dying Lonely and Living in Solitude” (HuffPost)

I am not endorsing any conclusions in these articles, simply referring them to those who might be interested.


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8 thoughts on “The Solitary Life

  1. Choosing ongoing solitude as a one’s destiny seems to me an abdication of one’s responsibility for contributing to working for the survival of our Planet and humanity.
    It is critical to reach a stage of individuation that one is not one of ‘the lonely crowd’; that an individual does not feel lonely when he/she is alone.
    However, every decent Guru, even after many years of meditation for this purpose, say in the isolation of a Himalyan cave, eventually hears ‘an inner call’ that he must come back
    to society to serve humanity.

  2. That “inner call” is hunter/gatherer programming designed to encourage coherence in the tribe.
    I don’t recall volunteering to be born. Others chose to obligate me to coexist with billions of upright apes on a mudball of limited resources.
    I will cooperate to the degree it makes my life less of a hassle.

  3. I’m nearly 69 and just realising that I am a ‘solitary person’. I’ve only discovered my ‘difference’ by Googling ‘a solitary existence’ and surprisingly people write about it.
    But I’ve never thought of my life as such, and would have described it as being ‘alone’.
    I’ve been alone all my life. My parents were very ambitious and never ever talked to me. I only had one friend at school and made a friend in my 50’s for a brief period before I moved a 5 hour drive away and that, now consists of a birthday card every year. I’ve had dreadful relationships with women – who I adore – because I have no understanding of who they are or what they need. I’ve never been able to ask. But, I’m outwardly the happiest person on the planet. I say ‘hello and goodmorning’ to everyone. I’ve always done this. But I reject closeness and recently a very attractive woman – 20 plus years younger than me – made it clear that she wanted to know me. My reaction was to put on 15lbs in weight to put her off. It worked. So here I am, very young looking, over 40 years since I went to a doctor, very healthy, content, have no concept of loneliness – BUT – have suddenly become overwhelmingly bored with life. Hence my arrival at a forum like this?

  4. Sorry to hear of your difficulties. Unfortunately, I have no expertise in such matter but perhaps some professional might be able to help. My very best wishes. JGM

  5. With Covid 19, Governor Newsom orders those 65 and older to stay at home, hence involuntary solitude. What are your thoughts about involuntary solitude?

  6. We give up some “freedoms” for the common good. Hence we wear motorcycle helmets, seat belts, don’t drive drunk, wear face masks during pandemics, and don’t shoot people when we’re mad at them. I may wish there were no restrictions on my shooting people, or “involuntarily made to be peaceful” but that is a price I pay for living in a civil society. And I hope others restrict their freedom to shoot me.

  7. I think you mistakenly link ‘solitary life’s with anti-society. Most of the, as you say, gurus, were not contributing to the ails of society that bring about its falls. Rather they were likely living within sustainable means that “society’ forsakes through greed and judgements. ‘Solitary folks usually can re-join society because they bring ACTUAL perspective that the “going-with-the-crowd” society lacks because of the imbalance of want/need. As you identified correctly, humans are typically social beings, ie. That is one reason child rearing and raising is possible. But during this same trial they are undoubtedly ‘solitary beings. Trying to find individual identity amongst a blank crowd of society. Anti-social beings are usually well versed in society’s great designs, but choose not to share because they selfish and egotistical. Best wishes on YOU being a society guru.

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