“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” –Pablo Picasso
If you were to define solitude, the simple phrase "Alone, but not lonely" would suffice.
This is because solitude – often mistakenly viewed as synonymous with other states of being such as loneliness and depression – is one of the most regenerative experiences that one can go through.
A lot of the best artists, writers and musicians to have ever lived have on at least one occasion attributed the genius of their works to seasons that they spent in happy – or in some cases, solemn – isolation. Famous examples include Vincent Van Gogh, the Brontë sisters, and classical pianist Ludwig Van Beethoven.
The Genius of the Ninth
Beethoven's creative isolation was unique in the sense that it was imposed on him by his complete loss of hearing. Nevertheless, he took up the challenge to embrace the silence, and despite the mental and emotional toll this wrought, the experience served to amplify his passion for music.
Symphony No. 9, otherwise known as the Ninth Symphony, is perhaps one of the most famous works to have been birthed during this turbulent time in Beethoven's life. It was hailed as a masterpiece when first performed in 1824, and to this day, it is still described as "the symphony to end all symphonies."
Time to Challenge Yourself
That being the case, the idea of self-imposed isolation with naught but our thoughts for company can be intimidating. As such, if you're considering a temporary departure from society, it's important to remind yourself of three things before moving forward in your purpose.
One, solitude should be empowering. Rather than it being a decision or state of wellness thrust upon you – as would be the case with loneliness or depression – look at it as a positive experiment meant to help you achieve personal growth.
Two, solitude opens up paths to enlightenment. By embracing the discomfort that comes with spending a significant amount of quality time alone, you become sure of yourself, your values, and where you want to head in life.
Three, solitude means getting away. If your alone time means hanging out in your bedroom all day or crashing in your abandoned office on a Saturday morning, you’re unlikely to get the reprieve and inspiration that you’re truly after.
Journey away from the noise of what’s familiar and force yourself to settle into a new, unfamiliar place that even feels vaguely overwhelming. Think silent retreats, camping grounds, religious prayer centers, or nature reserves.
Take up the challenge, and don’t be afraid to stretch your limitations as you do so. You never know what creative, intellectual and spiritual insights await you on the other side.
“So if Beethoven Was Completely Deaf, How Did He Compose?” Classic FM, 23 Aug., 2019, https:/www.classicfm.com/composers/beethoven/guides/deaf-hearing-loss-composing/.
Service, Tom. "Symphony Guide: Beethoven's Ninth ('Choral'). The Guardian, 9 Sep., 2014, hhttps:/www.theguardian.com/music/tomserviceblog/2014/sep/09/symphony-guide-beethoven-ninth-choral-tom-service.
Brickman, Jim. “Are You Afraid of Your Own Thoughts?” InnerSelf, https:/innerself.com/content/personal/relationships/yourself/4953-afraid-of-my-own-thoughts.html.