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Blupete's Weekly Commentary

November 22nd, 1998.


It was the Roman consul, Seneca, who first said that the "primary sign of a well-ordered mind is man's ability to remain in one place and linger in his own company." Ah! Solitude. How we long for it, especially in the later years (for a number of us, at least) when we would like to intellectually test and extend ourselves. It was Freud who observed that in "regards intellectual work, it remains a fact, indeed, that great decisions in the realms of thought and momentous discoveries and solutions of problems are only possible to an individual, working in solitude." Thus the great advantage of solitude, is, -- one can get some work done. And, in terms of its expense; well, there is little attached to it: it can be had, cheap: "A man always in society is one always on the spend; on the other hand, a mere solitary is at his best but a candle in a empty room." (John Newton, 1725-1807.)

However, there's a downside, -- as Stendhal wrote, "One can acquire everything in solitude -- except character." And here we see the horns of a dilemma upon which we may become fixed and to which Emerson pointed: "solitude is impractical; but, society is fatal." To be with people, or not; how much time to devote to the society of others, how much to ourselves, alone? There is to be a balance, a unique balance suited to each unique individual. While one might be content to spent most all of his time working away at his own personal agenda of ideas, a person is obliged to spend time maintaining personal and business relationships in order to serve their own overall well being and livelihood. My experience, is, however, that if a person has confidence in his own intellect and enjoys the exercise of it, then the greater part of one's time must be spent in solitude. Schopenhauer: "To be alone is the fate of all great minds -- a fate deplored at times, but still always chosen as the less grievous of two evils."

And finally, Conrad:

"It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun. It is as if loneliness were a hard and absolute condition of existence; the envelope of flesh and blood on which our eyes are fixed melts before the outstretched hand, and there remains only the capricious, unconsolable, and elusive spirit that no eye can follow, no hand can grasp."

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Peter Landry

June, 1998 (2019)