The Need for Solitude
JEHOVAH commands us to meditate; and to meditate we need solitude. We are to meditate on Jehovah’s Word, not just for mental exercise or personal enrichment of thought or to philosophize, but to be better able then to go preach it to others. Serious meditation, not daydreaming, is hard work. The mind is like a balky mule; it takes a few licks and kicks to get it moving. And it takes solitude so that outside interferences will be cut to as near nothing as possible.
Writing in the December 1, 1954, Christian Century, Simeon Stylites said: “In so many ways we, as a people, have declared war on solitude and meditation. We are lost without a ‘set’ or a ‘bunch.’ The worst possible calamity is to be alone. If you enjoy anything alone, you are ‘antisocial’ and ought to be rushed to the psychoanalyst’s couch, or better still to the mental hospital.”
And in the January 11, 1956, issue of this journal this writer said: “At last it is here—portable TV! Let’s all stand up and sing the doxology. For this is the climax of a long line of inventions and appliances designed to prevent a person from ever being reduced to the necessity of meeting himself. It will save us—along with that other instrument of deliverance from the horrors of solitude, the portable radio—from what many up-to-date moderns regard as the worst fate possible: to be left alone without any gadget to protect them from the necessity of rubbing two thoughts together.”
Neither this world nor its god Satan wants people to think for themselves. Satan’s propaganda floods out through worldly channels to mold all minds into a conformity with his system of things. On page 66 of The Age of Conformity Alan Valentine says: “Americans spend so much time in sodden absorption in radio, television and press that little is left for other communication or recreation. Inner resources for self-entertainment are atrophying from lack of use, and personal thought is being made unnecessary by the acceptance of predigested opinion from favorite commentators.” And on page 113 he adds: “The average American has not warmly accepted the highest flights of the creative mind. He prefers intellectual showmen or barkers who do not tax his brain or imagination too heavily.”
Many like thinking only if others do it. They will absorb themselves in television quiz and panel shows to listen to others think, but shun such mental exercise themselves. They would like to have knowledge, to know all the answers, but not enough to work for it; just as they would like to have a strong physique, but not enough to do the exercise necessary to get it.
Youth, following in the adult footsteps, has the same aversion to solitude and meditation. Psychologist Robert Lindner says that one main source of youth’s troubles today lies in “the abandonment of that solitude which was at once the trademark of adolescence and the source of its deepest despairs as of its dubious ecstasies. And frequently this solitude was creative. From it sometimes came the dreams, the hopes and the soaring aims that charged life henceforward with meaning and contributed to giving us our poets, artists, scientists . . . But youth today has abandoned solitude in favor of pack-running, of predatory assembly, of great collectivities that bury, if they do not destroy, individuality. Into these mindless associations the young flock like cattle. The fee they pay for initiation is abandonment of self and immersion in the herd . . . This innovation can yield no social gain. For it is in solitude that the works of hand, heart and mind are always conceived. In the crowd, herd or gang, it is a mass mind that operates—a mind without subtlety, without compassion, uncivilized.”
The necessity of solitude and the difficulty of getting it are discussed by Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift from the Sea: “We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends, and movies should fail, there is still the radio or television to fill up the void. Women, who used to complain of loneliness, need never be alone any more. We can do our housework with soap-opera heroes at our side. Even daydreaming was more creative than this; it demanded something of oneself and it fed the inner life. Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter, and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone. . . .
“The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone. How inexplicable it seems. Anything else will be accepted as a better excuse. If one sets aside time for a business appointment, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement, or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour to be alone, one is considered rude, egotistical or strange. What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it—like a secret vice! Actually these are among the most important times in one’s life—when one is alone. Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray.”
It is the refreshing spiritual springs that are tapped by true Christians when they meditate in solitude on Jehovah’s Word, and when they come together in meetings each one has more to contribute to the discussion, and when they go preaching in the homes of the people they have thoughts substantial enough to withstand opposing error, overturn it, bring wayward thinking into harmony with Jehovah’s Word. Jesus sought both solitude and people, one as a time to take in and the other as a time to give out. And he is “a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 Pet. 2:21; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; Luke 4:42; 5:16, NW.