Solitude and Loneliness. They seem very similar on the outside, but the only characteristic both have in common is the state of physical solitude.
Inside, solitude and loneliness are both tremendously different experiences. While solitude is chosen, loneliness is imposed by others.
Solitude is the desire to be in your own presence and enjoy your own company. Loneliness is a wretched feeling of isolation, and that someone or something is missing. The capacity to experience true solitude comes from an inner richness. It is this inner depth that causes us to focus our entire being towards our passions, or bathe in the tranquility of feeling whole unto ourselves. Loneliness on the other hand, is a coarse sense of deficiency and estrangement from the world.
A great number of people throughout history composed their best works in solitude – in fact, they required it. These are some of the unique thoughts they shared from their solitary experiences:
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“All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” ~ Blaise Pascal
“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” ~ Aristotle, ‘Politics’
“The best thinking has been done in solitude.” ~ Thomas A. Edison
“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” ~ Pablo Picasso
“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
“I am never less alone than when alone.” ~ Cicero, ‘Cicero De Officiis’
“Solitude was my only consolation – deep, dark, deathlike solitude.” ~ Mary Shelley
“One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude.” ~ Gary Mark Gilmore
“Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.” ~ Franz Kafka
“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.” ~ Ellen Burstyn
“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.” ~ Lord Byron
“Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius.” ~ Edward Gibbon
“Then stirs the feeling infinite, so felt in solitude, where we are least alone.” ~ Lord Byron, ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’
“Solitude is the great teacher, and to learn its lessons you must pay attention to it.” ~ Deepak Chopra
“The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.” ~ Aldous Huxley
“I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, ‘Walden’
“When we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death—ourselves.” ~ Eda LeShan
“Talent is nurtured in solitude … A creation of importance can only be produced when its author isolates himself, it is a child of solitude.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Göethe
“Every kind of creative work demands solitude, and being alone, constructively alone, is a prerequisite for every phase of the creative process.” ~ Barbara Powell
“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” ~ C.S. Lewis, ‘Weight of Glory’
“To have passed through life and never experienced solitude is to have never known oneself. To have never known oneself is to have never known anyone.” ~ Joseph Krutch, ‘The Desert Year’
“A man can be himself alone so long as he is alone … if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, ‘The World as Will and Idea’
“Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.” ~ Jodi Picoult ‘My Sister’s Keeper’
“Our language has widely sensed the two sides of being alone. It 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 alone.” ~ Paul Tillich, ‘The Eternal Now’
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, ‘Walden’
“… practically all creative people, and certainly most geniuses, have preferred to be alone for long periods, especially when producing their best work.” ~ Raj Persaud, ‘One Hundred Tears of Solitude’
“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone—that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.” ~ Nikola Tesla
“You think that I am impoverishing myself withdrawing from men, but in my solitude I have woven for myself a silken web or chrysalis, and, nymph-like, shall ere long burst forth a more perfect creature, fitted for a higher society.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, journal, February 8, 1857
“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Self-Reliance’
“I feel the same way about solitude as some people feel about the blessing of the church. It’s the light of grace for me. I never close my door behind me without the awareness that I am carrying out an act of mercy toward myself.” ~ Peter Høeg, ‘Smilla’s Sense of Snow’
“Now, more than ever, we need our solitude. Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives. It can teach us fortitude and the ability to satisfy our own needs. A restorer of energy, the stillness of alone experiences provides us with much-needed rest. It brings forth our longing to explore, our curiosity about the unknown, our will to be an individual, our hopes for freedom. Alone time is fuel for life.” — Dr. Ester Buchholz
“There is only one solitude, and it is vast, heavy, difficult to bear, and almost everyone has hours when he would gladly exchange it for any kind of sociability, however trivial or cheap, for the tiniest outward agreement with the first person who comes along….” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Letters to a Young Poet’
“People who need people are threatened by people who don’t. The idea of seeking contentment alone is heretical, for society steadfastly decrees that our completeness lies in others.” ~ Lionel Fisher, ‘Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude’
“Not everyone knows how to be alone with others, how to share solitude. We have to help each other to understand how to be in our solitude, so that we can relate to each other without grabbing on to each other. We can be interdependent but not dependent. Loneliness is rejected despondency. Solitude is shared interdependence.” ~ David Spangler
“The reason that extended solitude seemed so hard to endure was not that we missed others but that we began to wonder if we ourselves were present, because for so long our existence depended upon assurances from them.” ~ Doris Grumbach, ‘Fifty Days of Solitude’
“I was a man who thrived on solitude; without it I was like another man without food or water. Each day without solitude weakened me. I took no pride in my solitude; but I was dependent on it. The darkness of the room was like sunlight to me.” ~ Charles Bukowski, ‘Factotum’
“Decisive moment: the one when you will be really alone. And it is perhaps this that makes her hesitate: not the void, but the vastness of the solitude. It’s as well if you are frightened of solitude. It’s a sign that you have come to the moment of your birth.” ~ Hélène Cixous
“Find a day for yourself—better yet, late at night. Go to the forest or to the field, or lock yourself in a room … You will meet solitude there. There you will be able to listen attentively to the noise of the wind first, to birds singing, to see wonderful nature and to notice yourself in it … and to come back to harmonic connection with the world and its Creator.” Rabbi Nahman
“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.” ~ Hermann Hesse
“It is sometimes said that each of us is ultimately alone. This idea is compelling not because of birth and death, but because so often our moments alone seem more true, more real. I need solitude like I need food and rest, and like eating and resting, solitude is most healing when it fits the rhythm of my needs. A rigidly scheduled aloneness does not nourish me. Solitude is perhaps a misnomer. To me, being alone means togetherness – the re-coming-togetherness of myself and nature, of myself and being, the reuniting of myself with all other selves. Solitude especially means putting the parts of my mind back together, unifying the pieces of my mind back together, unifying the pieces of myself scattered by anger and fear, until i can once again see that the little things are little and the big things are big.” ~ Hugh Prather, ‘Notes to Myself’
“I had told people of my intention to be alone for a time. At once I realized they looked upon this declaration as a rejection of them and their company. I felt apologetic, even ashamed, that I would have wanted such a curious thing as solitude, and then sorry that I had made a point of announcing my desire for it. … To the spouse, or the long-time companion, or the family, and to the social circle, as it is called, the decision to be alone for any length of time is dangerous, threatening, a sign of rejection. … Having never felt the need to be alone themselves, having always lived happily in relationships, they looked upon my need as eccentric, even somewhat mad. But more than that, they saw it as fraudulent, an excuse to be rid of them rather than a desperate need to explore myself.” ~ Doris Grumbach, ‘Fifty Days of Solitude’
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