The Art of Solitude

This has become much more relevant to me as I’ve been attempting to take some serious time off from my work in startup land; the words Blaise Pascal have echoed in my brain for a few weeks now:

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Although Pascal was much more well-known for his work in the areas of physics, mathematics (geometry!), he did spend time capturing thoughts on philosophy, religion, and theology via Pensées.

In many ways (if I’m reading his work correctly), men (and women) fear the very silence of our own existence, sometimes to a crippling level.

Boredom is also something that man fears and as a natural consequence we, at times, pursue distraction as a solution to our boredom.

The molotov cocktail that is created can literally destroy us if we don’t manage it well, if we don’t find solutions or, at the very least, ask the important and hard questions of who we are in the context of others and learn to explore our emotions and our very existence.

According to Pascal, the problem is that we really never learned how to be alone; we never really learned the art of solitude.

Of course, in our ever-increasing, technologically-connected world, this has become a monstrous problem. And these things distract us from being able to understand not only our world around us (and those within it) but ourselves.

And without this knowledge we are dysfunctional. This is a skill and skillset that no one ever really teaches us. When was the last time that someone sat you down and talked about your “skill” in being alone with yourself? When was the last time that you dialogued with a trusted person about connecting inwardly?

Solitude is not a solution to our world’s problems… but, it’s an important part of creating the ones that will.

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