We often take for granted the value of solitude in our fast-paced, busy lives. Finding time to be alone can be challenging, with so many demands on our time and attention. But being able to spend time in solitude is essential for our well-being and can have some benefits.
It allows us to recharge, reflect, and gain perspective. It can also help us to tap into our creativity and think more deeply about important issues.
So, how many hours can you spend alone out of a 24-hour day? It depends on your circumstances and how you choose to use your time. Some people may be able to find a few hours of solitude every day, while others may only have a brief moment to themselves each week.
Ironically, on the other hand, loneliness is everywhere, even though we are more connected than ever before. In today’s postmodern, individualistic society, it can be challenging to maintain strong family ties and connections to traditional local communities.
Many people live in urban areas, far away from their families, pursuing career opportunities and personal freedom. While this can be liberating, it can also lead to loneliness, especially during the holiday season when everyone else seems to be surrounded by loved ones. Even those who return to their traditional relationships may feel out of place or disconnected, wondering why they bother to spend time with people who don’t share their values. It’s sad that despite our abundance of technology and connections, loneliness is still a pervasive issue in our society.
Tribalism is a powerful force that continues to shape many aspects of our society. For example, if you are part of a family business, your kinship with your family members may be as strong as your business partnership. Similarly, many politicians rely on family continuity to sustain their power and influence.
In premodern societies, people’s identities were often closely tied to the guild groups or communities to which they belonged. These groups provided a sense of support and belonging and often shared values. In these cases, being a member of a particular family, tribe, group, or community was one of the most important aspects of a person’s identity and way of life.
Our sense of identity and belonging in modern society get tied with membership in larger groups such as nation-states or religious denominations. While these groups can provide a strong sense of community and purpose, they can also lead to conflict when people feel that their identity gets threatened.
Throughout history, there have been numerous religious violence and persecution as people have fought to defend their beliefs and way of life. Even today, religious fundamentalists and militants are willing to kill and die for their membership in a particular group, often believing that this will lead to a better life in the hereafter.
The strong sense of belonging and purpose from membership in a particular group can be compelling. For some people, losing that sense of belonging can be devastating. Identifying strongly with a specific group or community can become a fundamental part of their identity and sense of self. Losing membership in that group can lead to a terrible sense of loneliness and a feeling that their very meaning in life has get stripped away.
That is even true in modern societies where corporate culture or membership in an institution plays a dominant role in people’s sense of identity. For people who have spent their entire lives working for a particular company or organization, retirement or sudden layoffs can be a traumatic experience, leading to feelings of hopelessness and even thoughts of suicide.
The fear of loneliness is a deeply ingrained part of human nature, and it is a constant source of anxiety. Those who have never experienced leaving the comfort of their families may worry about the possibility of loneliness. The prospect of being alone and disconnected from others is profoundly unsettling and can lead to feelings of anxiety and insecurity.
People have always craved connection and a sense of belonging, from premodern tribalism to modern corporate capitalism to postmodern individualism. Being a group member can provide a sense of security and support. However, it is also true that membership in any group carries the risk of exclusion or loss of membership.
The fear of being cast out or left alone can be a powerful force that keeps us within the confines of our comfort zone, even if it means sacrificing some of our autonomy and independence.
The paradox of loneliness is that we often feel lonely or fear possible loneliness because of the very membership that we belong to. Thus, we rely on superficial socialization, clinging to our membership to avoid loneliness. We may even cry and resist being pushed out of our comfort zone, saying, “This is my room!”
It can be challenging to navigate the dilemma of loneliness. On the one hand, it is crucial to have a sense of connection and support from others, but on the other hand, it is also essential to maintain our independence and autonomy.
Solitude can be an alternative for helping us to navigate the dilemma of loneliness.
While loneliness is a feeling of isolation and disconnection from others, solitude is a state of being alone that is chosen and embraced. Rather than avoiding or fearing loneliness, solitude allows us to turn inward and reflect on who we are beyond our superficial understanding of various memberships and belongings.
In solitude, we can courageously ask fundamental questions like “who am I?” and confront the truth about our identity and place in the world. The sense of awe that can come from being in solitude is entirely different from the feelings of anxiety and fear that come with loneliness.
In solitude, we may realize that we are “nobody” rather than feeling isolated. We may instead feel a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves, transcending our deceptive comfort zone. We proclaim there is no such a thing as “my room,” even allowing us to embrace death, not as something to be avoided.
We are “nobody” in the grand scheme of things that allows us to let go of our egos and attachments, surrendering ourselves to something greater, which can be a profoundly spiritual and meaningful experience.
Image by SplitShire