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Thoughts On Solitude

Dernière mise à jour : 12 mai 2023


Caspar David Friedrich

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1817






Alan Watts, Nature, Man and Woman


"In many so-called primitive cultures it is a requirement of tribal initiation to spend a lengthy period alone in the forests or mountains, a period of coming to terms with the solitude and nonhumanity of nature so as to discover who, or what, one really is — a discovery hardly possible while the community is telling you what you are, or ought to be. He may discover, for instance, that loneliness is the masked fear of an unknown which is himself, and that the alien-looking aspect of nature is a projection upon the forests of his fear of stepping outside habitual and conditioned patterns of feeling."



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May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude


"The value of solitude — one of its values — is, of course, that there is nothing to cushion against attacks from within, just as there is nothing to help balance at times of particular stress or depression. A few moments of desultory conversation may calm an inner storm. But the storm, painful as it is, might have had some truth in it. So sometimes one has simply to endure a period of depression for what it may hold of illumination if one can live through it, attentive to what it exposes or demands."



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Clark E. Moustakas, Loneliness and Love


"Solitude is as much an intrinsic desire in man as his gregariousness. Hermits, solitary thinkers, independent spirits, recluses, although often stigmatized in the modern world, are healthy expressions of man's dialogue with himself."



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Rainer Maria Rilke, Correspondence, March 1907


"Solitude is truly an interior affair, and to realize this insight and to live accordingly amounts to the best and most helpful form of progress."



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Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth


"You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen."



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E. M. Cioran, Strangled Thoughts


"Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do, almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be altogether sterile: Something necessarily emerges, even if only the hope of, some day, meeting yourself again."



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Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 7, 1857


"This stillness, solitude, wildness of nature is a kind of thoroughwort, or boneset, to my intellect. That is what I go out to seek. It is as if I always met in those places some grand, serene, immortal, infinitely encouraging, though invisible, companion, and walked with him."



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Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human


"Solitary men. Some men are so accustomed to being alone with themselves that they do not compare themselves with others at all but spin out their life of monologue in a calm and cheerful mood, conversing and indeed laughing with themselves alone. ... -- We must therefore allow certain men their solitude and not be so stupid, as we so often are, as to pity them for it."



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Arthur Schopenhauer, World As Will and Representation


"Genuine tranquility of the heart and perfect peace of mind, the highest blessings on earth after health, are to be found only in solitude and, as a permanent disposition, only in the deepest seclusion."


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Thomas De Quincy, Autobiographical Sketches


"Solitude, though it may be silent as light, is, like light, the mightiest of agencies; for solitude is essential to man. All men come into this world alone; all leave it alone."



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Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


"And speaking of solitude again, it becomes clear that solitude is always at bottom not something that one can take or leave. We are solitary. We may delude ourselves and act as though this were not so. That is all. But how much better it is to realize that we are so, yes, even to begin by assuming it."


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Hermann Hesse, "Zarathustra's return"


"Solitude is the path over which destiny endeavors to lead man to himself. Solitude is the path that men most fear. (...) My dear friends, let me sing you the song of solitude. Without solitude there is no suffering, without solitude there is no heroism. But the solitude I have in mind is not the solitude of the blithe poets or of the theater, where the fountain bubbles so sweetly at the mouth of the hermit’s cave."



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Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil


"Whoever has sat down, year in and year out, day and night, alone in an intimate dispute and conversation with his soul, whoever has become a cave bear or digger for treasure or guardian of treasure and dragon in his own cavern - it can be a labyrinth but also a gold mine - such a man's very ideas finally take on a distinct twilight colouring and smell as much of mould as they do of profundity, something incommunicable and reluctant, which blows cold wind over everyone passing by."



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Hermann Hesse, Reflections


“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.”



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Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space


"All the spaces of our past moments of solitude, the spaces in which we have suffered from solitude, enjoyed, desired, and compromised solitude, remain indelible within us."




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