Thursday, 2 April 2015

Unstructured solitude - where and how can we be free, good and happy?

I have an unusually powerful need for unstructured solitude - that is for un-busy, un-hurried, un-distracted time spent alone and without any kind of detailed agenda.

I have been aware of this need since I was thirteen years old, and I have generally been fortunate enough to be able to get what I needed.

Because we are animals; Men require certain circumstances - and unstructured solitude needs some kind of context. What I aim-at is a type of meditation; but the mechanism probably does not look to other people like meditation - because it consists of 'journaling' - that is, hand-writing in a notebook.

Good places for meditative journaling:

  • Cafes
  • Libraries
  • Something like a shed, workshop, or part-covered, semi-outdoor niche
  • Public transport - especially a train
  • Walking - carrying a notebook

While my personal need for unstructured solitude is so great that it is painful for me to be deprived, even for one day; there are problems which, I think, prevent other and less 'driven' people from obtaining what they also likely require (albeit to a lesser extent):

  • Distraction by intrusive surroundings - especially from other people who may be un-ignorably gossiping, or behaving in a threatening manner.
  • The need for distraction - especially the addictive use of external stimulation. People reach for a newspaper, fill their heads with music from headphones, use social media etc.
  • Boredom - as a consequence of habitual passivity of mind. Sooner or later boredom will afflict everybody - but for some people boredom kicks-in, in just a few seconds.
  • Busyness - the pressure of time, a fully organized life, planning of everything and the notion that everything should be planned.

Most profoundly, a false metaphysics, a set of false ideas about 'what matters' - the idea that only active living is important, only social relationships are important; that to be alone and 'doing nothing useful' is selfish, self-indulgent, lazy.

The consequence of these preventive factors is that modern people waste their precious opportunities for unstructured solitude - they waste the time spent in a cafe, on a bus, walking; they waste it on chores, on distractions, or (more rarely) on sheer vacuity of mind (lapsing into 'stand-by' - a state of slack-jawed suspended animation).

If there was real truth in what Socrates said about the unexamined life not being worth living; then each person needs to think about when this 'examining' of our life is supposed to be taking place, if not in unstructured solitude?