Solitude verses Loneliness

The past 8 days I have been on a trip.  It was a great adventure in many ways.  I tagged along on with my husband on his business trip.  Naturally I took a book to read, at least I thought that was a natural thing to do, until I saw so many electronic devices.  The funny thing was, I was reading a book called, “Reclaiming Conversation:The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” about how we need time with real people, not just our devices.

One chapter in particular struck me.  It was simply called “Solitude”.  I was drawn to it because of my introverted nature and was curious as to what I could learn from this.  I wasn’t surprised that the author quoted from Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” in this chapter. I guess what intrigued me most was the way solitude and loneliness were defined.  It gave me a lot to think about and I think it will make you think too.

Sherry Turkle quotes Paul Tillick saying, “Language…has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone.  And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being along.” (Reclaiming Conversation, p.65).

Think about that for a minute.  Solitude=glory, loneliness=pain and yet you are alone with yourself in both circumstances.  Turkle continues, “Loneliness is painful, emotionally and even physically, both from a ‘want of intimacy’ when we need it most, in early childhood.  Solitude- the capacity to be contentedly and constructively alone- is built from successful human connection at just that time.  But if we don’t have experience with solitude- and this is often the case today- we start to equate loneliness and solitude.  This reflects the impoverishment of our experience.  If we don’t know the satisfactions of solitude, we only know the panic of loneliness” (Reclaiming Conversation, p.65-66).

Her whole premise is that because people are so busy trying to be busy on their devices we are all denying ourselves of solitude.  In effect people are scared of having any time to think and instead of being “bored” go through the mind numbing of checking everything on their social media so that we don’t have to be alone.  It was interesting to be in a big city and see this happening.  People are glued to their screens and never look up.  I am not sure how they knew when to get off of the metro or go down the right streets, but heads were mostly down and eyes hardly ever looked up.  So, as I am writing this I realize that is what people are doing, they are busy on devices.

My question for you is, is it solitude or loneliness for you?

I choose solitude.

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