There is one thing above all else that we humans crave, one thing that trumps wealth or health, attention or fame; That one thing is happiness.
Most of us, given half a chance, would readily give a metaphorical arm and leg for the chance of waking every morning to a personal world of peace, love and contentment. It ain’t gonna happen of course, at least not for the vast majority of us.
And so we switch ourselves to autopilot and fly blindly into the storm of modern society. We grasp and gorge in a vain attempt to reach fulfillment, increasingly desperate to satisfy some part of our self before the curtain falls. We convince ourselves that the answer lies out there somewhere, ready to be bought and experienced. Yet trouble inevitably comes when we realize that while looking for the answer we still don’t fully understand the question.
And that is where solitude comes into the mix. To use a well-worn phrase: Happiness comes from within not from without. People and things don’t make us happy; We make ourselves happy, and to do so we need to withdraw now and again to confer with ourselves in a place free from the distractions of society’s storm. We need solitude.
That may sound obvious, but how many of us, I wonder, actually take time to look inwards? It’s all out THERE, isn’t it? We can’t move for remedies and elixirs, peddled by the beautiful and successful and guaranteed (at a price) to heal our ills and sooth our pain. We are all go-ahead people chasing ‘success’. We don’t have time to sit on our backsides contemplating heaven-knows-what, in silence and ‘at one’ with the universe.
Yet we are often like drivers gunning a vehicle at top speed without any clue where we’re driving to. The gas eventually runs out and when it does we find ourselves on a lonely road in the middle of the night, far from help… or gas.
Solitude gives us time to get away from the traffic and cut the engine. We can sit for a moment and enjoy the sound of our own heartbeat. We find that once the din of traffic and bustle has been switched off all those sounds that we are normally deaf to, the sounds of nature and small, insignificant things, the sounds even of our own conscience and good sense, can be heard again.
They were always there; It’s just that in our noisy, everyday battle for significance we blot them out and forget them. We think that our modern ethic of ‘dog eat dog’ informs our evolution but in reality it simply signals our involution back to the brute. We cease to care because we cease to notice.
Our periods of solitude away from the tumult galvanize our senses and allow them to operate again in the way they were supposed to: Free from the bludgeons of base instinct and raw emotion. In our solitude we can begin to realize that our everyday, go-getting selves are actually deaf and blind for the most part, driven on solely by fear and unreasonable desire. If we blunder around blindly then it is no surprise when we occasionally walk into a brick wall.
Our moments of self-reflection can slow everything down and in doing so lift the fog and allow us to see clearly. We gain insight and develop a sense of perspective. We can breath again and enable inspiration, previously cowering in the basement, to rise once more, free from the threat posed by those blundering emotional brutes that normally propel us blindly along our path to ‘success’.
And therein lies what we all crave: Happiness… or at least the seed thereof.