Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

The Value of Solitude

--by William Deresiewicz (May 16, 2016)

Loneliness is not the absence of company, it is grief over that absence. The lost sheep is lonely; the shepherd is not lonely. But the Internet is as powerful a machine for the production of loneliness as television is for the manufacture of boredom. If six hours of television a day creates the aptitude for boredom, the inability to sit still, a hundred text messages a day creates the aptitude for loneliness, the inability to be by yourself. Some degree of boredom and loneliness is to be expected, especially among young people, given the way our human environment has been attenuated. But technology amplifies those tendencies. You could call your schoolmates when I was a teenager, but you couldn't call them 100 times a day. You could get together with your friends when I was in college, but you couldn't always get together with them when you wanted to, for the simple reason that you couldn't always find them. If boredom is the great emotion of the TV generation, loneliness is the great emotion of the Web generation. We lost the ability to be still, our capacity for idleness. They have lost the ability to be alone, their capacity for solitude.

And losing solitude, what have they lost? First, the propensity for introspection, that examination of the self that the Puritans, and the Romantics, and the modernists (and Socrates, for that matter) placed at the center of spiritual life — of wisdom, of conduct. Thoreau called it fishing "in the Walden Pond of [our] own natures," "bait[ing our] hooks with darkness." Lost, too, is the related propensity for sustained reading. The Internet brought text back into a televisual world, but it brought it back on terms dictated by that world — that is, by its remapping of our attention spans. Reading now means skipping and skimming; five minutes on the same Web page is considered an eternity. This is not reading as Marilynne Robinson described it: the encounter with a second self in the silence of mental solitude.

But we no longer believe in the solitary mind. If the Romantics had Hume and the modernists had Freud, the current psychological model — and this should come as no surprise — is that of the networked or social mind. Evolutionary psychology tells us that our brains developed to interpret complex social signals. According to David Brooks, that reliable index of the social-scientific zeitgeist, cognitive scientists tell us that "our decision-making is powerfully influenced by social context"; neuroscientists, that we have "permeable minds" that function in part through a process of "deep imitation"; psychologists, that "we are organized by our attachments"; sociologists, that our behavior is affected by "the power of social networks." The ultimate implication is that there is no mental space that is not social (contemporary social science dovetailing here with postmodern critical theory). One of the most striking things about the way young people relate to one another today is that they no longer seem to believe in the existence of Thoreau's "darkness." [...]

Today's young people seem to feel that they can make themselves fully known to one another. They seem to lack a sense of their own depths, and of the value of keeping them hidden.

If they didn't, they would understand that solitude enables us to secure the integrity of the self as well as to explore it.

Excerpted from William Deresiewicz's article in The Chronicle of Higher Education: The End of Solitude.

Add Your Reflection:

Send me an email when another comment is posted on this passage.
Name: Email:

Previous Reflections:

On May 14, 2016 david doane wrote:

I think there is a lot of truth in Pascal's statement that "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone."  Alone is a basic condition of being human.  We can run from it, but ultimately we are each alone, even while we are in community.  I can be alone in solitude, which I think is important because it's time with myself to be quiet, reflect, regroup, and get to know me better.  As the author said, solitude enables us to secure the integrity of the self as well as to explore it.  I take at least an hour and a half alone almost every morning to exercise, meditate, maybe read or write a little, and I love that time -- it's nourishing for me.  I can also enjoy community where relationship, different perspectives, agreement and disagreement are available.  I have a need for both solitude and community, though my need for community seems less than my need for solitude.  Solitude-community is one of those dialectics we live in the tension of.  After enough solitude I gravitate toward community, and after a dose of community I move back to solitude.  Solitude and community stimulate one another and I grow in the back and forth. 

On May 14, 2016 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 When I sit still and mindfully explore my inner land- scape of bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings compassionately, I deeply feel connected with me. I just got a call from my client who is feeling very lonely, bored and depressed.I asked her to do mindfulness meditation with me on the phone.In the beginning it was difficult for her to let the bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings come and go.She started feeling close and more connected with herself and with me too.A bridge of empathy, compassion, authenticity and connectedness was being built from a long distance call. It was a short session on the phone but it was very effective.I felt pretty good for being with her when she needed my help and she expressed her gratitude for being for helping her.

So we need solitude, stillness, for nurturing ourselves and also for nurturing others in our life. I use technology wisely and I am teaching my grand children to use social media wisely. Slowly and steadily they are getting the message and I am not in hurry.

May we cultivate kindness and compassion for ourselves and others to learn how to be still in the midst of ongoing noise within and without us.


Jagdish P Dave

On May 17, 2016 Wanda wrote:

I crave solitude each day, especially when I am hurt or challenged by something.  It provides a safe haven for me to wrestle with issues and come to some resolution.  I am able to retreat to this solitary place for introspection and reflection which I so desperately need during these times.  It isn't lonely at all, just reassuring and peaceful.  After spending this time with a cup of tea, Telemann and Vivaldi, I am good to go! 

On May 17, 2016 sara k hatch wrote:

 My husband has Parkinson's Disease. I am his only caregiver at this point. I need my solitude in the mornings before he gets us to renew myself and be able to face the day. I limit my time with other people especially ones who are negative. The energy it takes to be a caretaker is breathtaking especially the emotional toll it drains from me. The morning solitude is a must.

On May 17, 2016 Matt perry wrote:

 I find lack that spending no time alone - even if I am meditating to slowly produce a lot of unwanted noise in my body and I can become irritable, a simple walk in nature is often all it takes to enable me to loose the shackles of claustrophobia but real time alone away from all and in silence is a blessing that can re-charge my soul. 

On May 18, 2016 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

 Solitude has become more important in my life as I age. I seem to crave it more than ever. Perhaps this is also due to how interconnected we've become through technology; we are seemingly never alone with text messages buzzing at all hours, Facebook messages or notifications popping up and as the writer said, we can connect in ways like never before and yet so many feel so alone and disconnected. Solitude for me is in the mornings when I wake and sip my tea, crunch through an apple and just sit and look out the window. I feel fortunate that most days I really enjoy my own company and over the last 15 years have chosen to do many activities solo. True I meet people along the way and I enjoy meandering through a village or city on my own taking in the sights and sounds at my own pace. I am also an extrovert so need face to face with people too, and I admit Facebook has at times been a life saver when I am in depression and perhaps not as able to reach out in person. The balance of solitude and community in my life is to be sure to have quiet time each day to myself and then at least 3 times a week to go out and do something with friends; even if that doing is simply sitting together. HUGS from my heart to yours and here's to solitude!

On May 21, 2016 Me wrote:

 I hear you.  

On May 21, 2016 Amy wrote:


On May 21, 2016 aj wrote:


On May 22, 2016 Virginia wrote:

 For those who find being alone difficult, start with creating an escape room in your mind, a quiet place to retreat to now and then.  Use whatever stimuli you wish - or nothing at all.  From there it may be easier to enjoy true solitude.  Like others, I need my own time and space to feel centered. 

On Sep 29, 2018 AHSAN ALIALI wrote:


Thanks for this great post, i find it very interesting and very well thought out and put together. I look forward to reading your work in the future. que se celebra el 20 de noviembre

On Sep 30, 2018 prince U.S wrote:


I think that thanks for the valuabe information and insights you have so provided here. Small Business Grants

On Oct 1, 2018 prince U.S wrote:


The website is looking bit flashy and it catches the visitors eyes. Design is pretty simple and a good user friendly interface. <a href=''>luxury eddm box</a>

On Oct 2, 2018 prince U.S wrote:


The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred was good. Thanks for sharing.. gta san andreas download

On Oct 2, 2018 AHSAN ALIALI wrote:


Great info! I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have. fb auto liker

On Oct 4, 2018 chenyingying wrote:


nike outlet red bottom shoes puma slides coach handbags outlet basketball shoes puma fenty slides lebron soldier 10 vans shoes nike free cheap nhl jerseys ugg sale uggs on sale versace sunglasses adidas stan smith tory burch shoes coach factory outlet longchamp outlet replica watches tods ysl bags canada goose jackets north face outlet birkenstock outlet ray bans vibram fivefingers pandora jewelry jimmy choo jordan 8 lululemon adidas superstar kate spade handbags suicoke mac cosmetics mac cosmetics coach outlet lebron 13 fingerlings uggs outlet nike dunks lebron soldier 11 lee jeans fitflops jimmy choo outlet valentino sac longchamp moncler outlet nike outlet mizuno shoes swarovski jewelry adidas jeremy scott uggs sale givenchy handbags maglie calcio ray ban true religion jeans new balance shoes red bottoms coach outlet hollister clothing supreme new york oakley sunglasses adidas shoes off-white manchester united jersey nike cortez ugg clearance audemars piguet light up shoes north face jackets mcm backpack converse shoes michael kors handbags ugg outlet tiffany rings ugg clearance north face jackets jordan 3 balenciaga sandals ugg factory outlet michael kors outlet spalding basketball jordan shoes ralph lauren tory burch sandals shoe carnival prada outlet north face outlet christian louboutin baby uggs ray ban sunglasses new balance sandals nike outlet valentino shoes nike air max sophia webster shoes miu miu sunglasses coach outlet coach outlet true religion jeans baseball bats hermes bags polo ralph lauren uggs official site ugg sale jordan canada goose jackets ysl makeup camisetas de futbol kate spade purse ugg australia michael kors outlet coach outlet moncler outlet salvatore ferragamo pandora jewelry omega watches police sunglasses nicholas kirkwood shoes visconti pens nike outlet nike air max 1 snapback hats air jordan skechers sandals nike tennis womens ugg boots timberland replica rolex watches coach outlet prada outlet marcelo burlon nike air max nfl jerseys kate spade outlet pandora jewelry celine handbags cheap soccer jerseys polo ralph lauren lebron ambassador 10 oakley vault roshe run montblanc pen yoga pants hermes belt adidas slides coach outlet hermes outlet stephen curry shoes marc jacobs handbags ferragamo shoes vans outlet asics shoes nike air max plus ray ban sunglasses nike shoes ugg for kids ray ban mont blanc pens fjallraven outlet lululemon outlet kate spade outlet new balance ralph lauren nike air force 1 links of london moncler outlet mlb jerseys trikots günstig hermes kelly bag fila true religion fitflops under armour pandora jewelry columbia outlet canada goose outlet michael kors outlet coach outlet herve leger dresses rolex watches nike flight bonafide versace clothing true religion outlet polo outlet maillot de foot coach outlet dior handbags michael kors uk polo ralph lauren nike huarache nike shoes michael kors outlet maillot de foot canada goose jackets michael kors outlet lebron soldier 9 ugg boots maui jim sunglasses christian louboutin the north face kevin durant shoes lebron 14 under armour shoes supra shoes moncler jackets longchamp maglia calcio undefeated clothing christian louboutin outlet canada goose outlet coach wallets hogan shoes north face outlet flip flops vapormax ugg australia off-white clothing ferragamo shoes woolrich jackets tom ford sunglasses true religion pandora jewelry belstaff outlet canada goose coats uggs outlet polo shirts nike dunks russell westbrook jersey louboutin ugg boots adidas yeezy baseball jersey adidas nmd for sale jordan pas cher michael kors supra shoes kobe 11 adidas shoes longchamp coach factory outlet nike factory breitling watches fitflops michael kors canada oakley sunglasses swarovski crystal puma outlet coach outlet fußballtrikots adidas outlet ray ban sunglasses jordans ralph lauren christian louboutin shoes ugg boots cristiano ronaldo jersey bcbg polo ralph lauren ugg outlet nike air max 90 ナイキ スニーカー ugg boots ugg boots omega watches nike air force 1 ugg boots yeezy desert rat 500 adidas wings philipp plein ray ban sunglasses russell westbrook shoes nike outlet north face outlet supreme canada goose jackets nike blazer fitflops ugg boots ralph lauren michael kors manolo blahnik shoes louboutin converse shoes nike air max 270 arc'teryx clothing swarovski rings supreme clothing nike air max 95 cheap nfl jerseys pandora charms mlb jerseys ray ban sunglasses mishka clothing ray ban sunglasses moncler outlet michael kors handbags yeezy shoes coach outlet moncler jackets louboutin hermes bags adidas outlet jordan oakley sunglasses ugg sale linda farrow sunglasses nike kyrie 2 jordan 1 uggs outlet new balance marc jacobs ugg outlet tiffany & co nike socks flops alexander mcqueen nike mercurial soccer jerseys monster headphones running shoes timberland nike epic react pandora charms beats headphones kate spade outlet mbt russell wilson jersey breguet watches north face coach handbags nike kyrie 3 michael kors outlet clearance cheap nfl jerseys football shirts nike outlet ugg boots longchamp handbags kate spade handbags flipflops ralph lauren outlet michael kors outlet adidas flip flops ralph lauren tommy hilfiger shirts burberry outlet nike free cheap jerseys bottega veneta north face ugg outlet nike flip-flops soccer jersey ralph lauren y3 shoes jordan shoes canada goose jackets ugg boots kate spade outlet air max dansko nike shoes coach outlet online paul george shoes michael kors purse tory burch canada goose sale nike presto burberry outlet teva sandals ysl sunglasses vetements clothing ugg outlet adidas football boots nba jerseys canada goose outlet cheap jordans lebron james jersey michael kors miu miu handbags philipp plein outlet ralph lauren outlet fitflops sale coach outlet nike kd 10 bvlgari jewelry pasotti ombrelli ugg outlet store tiffany jewelry manolo blahnik mikimoto jewelry ugg for men nfl jerseys jordan prada sunglasses barcelona jersey coach factory outlet supreme clothing christian louboutin moose knuckles jackets oakley sunglasses harden vol 1 stuart weitzman nike blazer ralph lauren michael kors handbags nike trainers coach factory outlet ugg outlet timberland boots ronaldo jersey prada handbags nike hyperdunk oakley sunglasses coach outlet kobe 12 hockey jerseys oakley sunglasses ralph lauren balenciaga triple s columbia outlet michael kors outlet birkenstock sandals canada goose nike kd 8 pandora jewelry ralph lauren nike free jordans mulberry handbags nike shoes for women nine west christian louboutin outlet jordan shoes nike air max ugg store nike air max canada goose outlet levi jeans vans outlet tag heuer watches ray ban sunglasses christian louboutin shoes versace bags nfl jerseys longchamp outlet jordan xx9 adidas nmd outlet oakley sunglasses ugg boots ugg slippers dolce & gabbana nike lunarglide canada goose jackets tiffany jewelry ralph lauren jeans vans shoes pandora outlet lebron 15 timberland michael kors handbags michael kors handbags tory burch outlet ugg sale ugg shoes mont blanc pens tom brady jersey oakley sunglasses cheap nike roshe ray ban michael kors outlet kate spade outlet balenciaga ray ban wayfarers nike outlet store burberry outlet adidas stan smith jordan 12 curry jersey north face outlet ralph lauren nike air max 97 canada goose outlet reebok shoes ugg outlet tory burch handbags superdry converse soccer jerseys coach bags wedding shoes moncler outlet basketball shoes adidas yeezy 350 boost nike tn jordan 5 louboutin ray ban sunglasses pandora jewelry jordan shoes ray ban parajumpers jackets oakley sunglasses ugg sale oakley sunglasses ugg boots converse shoes prada bags polo outlet cheap nfl jerseys ferragamo belt timberland mlb jerseys coach factory outlet cartier bracelet hundreds clothing nobis jackets ugg outlet store michael kors cheap jerseys adidas outlet birkenstock shoes nike revolution stussy clothing ray ban ugg outlet ralph lauren pelikan pens burberry sale longchamp air jordan nike air max 2018 jordan 6 victoria's secret harden vol 2 malone souliers coach outlet onitsuka tiger shoes christian louboutin shoes coach outlet online ugg for women jordan 4 nike sb adidas outlet jordan camisetas de futbol mcm outlet ugg boots sale jordans air max x-large clothing nike factory supreme pas cher coach outlet online giuseppe zanotti wholesale nfl jerseys nike shox birkenstock juicy couture persol sunglasses mbt true religion sale nfl jerseys nike air max 2017 nike air max coach outlet nike huarache saucony shoes jordans beats by dre ray ban sunglasses adidas ultra boost ugg boots lebron 15 michael kors bags snapback hats pandora jewelry mac makeup michael kors handbags hermes bags nfl jerseys wholesale jordan 11 van cleef & arpels jewelry chenyingying20181004

On Oct 6, 2018 prince U.S wrote:


The website is looking bit flashy and it catches the visitors eyes. Design is pretty simple and a good user friendly interface.

On Oct 8, 2018 dsd wrote:


Thanks for sharing the post.. parents are worlds best person in each lives of individual..they need or must succeed to sustain needs of the family. 안전놀이터

On Oct 10, 2018 dsdds wrote:


Thanks for sharing the post.. parents are worlds best person in each lives of individual..they need or must succeed to sustain needs of the family. Dubai video production companies

On Oct 12, 2018 dsds wrote:


Thanks for sharing the post.. parents are worlds best person in each lives of individual..they need or must succeed to sustain needs of the family. low cost luxury EDDM® box

On Oct 13, 2018 prince U.S wrote:
Wow i can say that this is another great article as expected of this blog.Bookmarked this site.. online gaming merchant account rates  

On Oct 14, 2018 sasa wrote:


Thanks for sharing the post.. parents are worlds best person in each lives of individual..they need or must succeed to sustain needs of the family. 스포츠토토

On Oct 16, 2018 liuchunkai wrote:


stephen curry shoes uggs outlet saucony shoes coach outlet pandora jewelry michael kors outlet givenchy handbags jeep shoes christian louboutin shoes canada goose outlet true religion jeans mont blanc pens cheap jerseys dansko shoes manchester united jersey ferragamo outlet nike tennis nets jerseys swarovski outlet air jordan 12 ugg boots polo ralph lauren yeezy boost ugg outlets chrome hearts outlet uggs outlet michael kors outlet ray ban sunglasses ugg outlet uggs outlet ugg outlet jordan shoes golden goose sneakers nhl jerseys polo ralph lauren mulberry handbags moncler outlet true religion jeans hermes outlet balenciaga sneakers toms shoes canada goose jackets nike shoes ray ban sunglasses michael kors outlet gucci outlet keen shoes tory burch handbags ray ban sunglasses coach outlet coach outlet online air max 90 nike cortez coach outlet ray ban sunglasses ugg boots michael kors outlet christian louboutin boutique ray ban sunglasses ugg outlet moncler outlet canada goose outlet kobe shoes ugg boots pandora outlet pandora charms nike air force 1 ferragamo shoes ray ban sunglasses ugg outlet basketball shoes polo outlet nike revolution adidas ultra boost ugg outlet mizuno running shoes nike outlet red bottom shoes cheap jordans ray ban outlet canada goose jackets timberwolves jerseys air jordan 3 soccer jerseys giuseppe zanotti outlet herve leger outlet coach outlet online wizards jerseys air huarache coach outlet coach canada nike outlet raptors jerseys cheap nfl jerseys nba jerseys polo ralph lauren air jordan shoes san antonio spurs jerseys houston texans jerseys ugg outlet fitflops oakley sunglasses heat jerseys swarovski outlet ugg outlet coach outlet nike air max 2015 nike lunarglide coach outlet coach outlet oakley sunglasses birkenstock outlet coach outlet ugg outlet pandora jordan shoes cleveland cavaliers jersey ralph lauren polo shirts jordan shoes coach outlet online ferragamo outlet christian louboutin outlet michael kors outlet michael kors canada goose outlet air force 1 canada goose coats canada goose outlet christian louboutin outlet coach outlet converse shoes ugg boots clearance gucci outlet adidas uk michael kors outlet clearance cavaliers jerseys air max longchamp outlet coach factory outlet links of london mulberry bags christian louboutin outlet polo ralph lauren air jordan retro red bottom shoes christian louboutin outlet yeezy boost 350 swarovski outlet michael kors outlet north face jackets polo ralph lauren fitflops outlet canada goose outlet longchamp solde mulberry outlet nike factory outlet minnetonka outlet true religion outlet fitflops sale prada shoes adidas nmd michael kors outlet nike shoes bulls jerseys kate spade outlet ugg outlet knicks jerseys kate spade outlet polo outlet michael kors outlet mulberry bags michael kors handbags celine outlet visvim shoes mbt shoes canada goose coats uggs outlet hawks jerseys adidas outlet supreme clothing christian louboutin outlet coach outlet camel shoes christian louboutin outlet canada goose canada goose outlet gucci handbags ugg boots clearance burberry outlet michael kors handbags oakley sunglasses longchamp bags san francisco 49ers jerseys hermes belt celtics jerseys uggs outlet true religion uk manolo blahnik outlet cheap jordans jordan shoes mbt shoes nike free scarpe mbt true religion jeans adidas nmd air huarache bvlgari jewelry canada goose outlet fitflops sale clearance uggs outlet kate spade outlet ugg boots true religion jeans new york knicks jersey coach outlet online moncler outlet nba jerseys ray ban sunglasses ray ban sunglasses ugg outlet michael kors outlet cheap jordans ralph lauren polo true religion outlet hermes birkin cheap football shirts cheap jordans cheap nfl jerseys palladium boots true religion jeans mulberry handbags air jordan 4 air max 97 ugg outlet clarks shoes pandora jewelry coach outlet mulberry handbags cheap jordans michael kors outlet coach factory outlet tory burch outlet ferragamo outlet oakley sunglasses lebron james shoes ugg outlet kate spade outlet adidas trainers canada goose outlet kate spade outlet nike roshe one ugg outlet nike shoes oakley sunglasses michael kors outlet suicoke sandals true religion jeans moncler outlet pandora charms cheap nhl jerseys coach outlet tory burch outlet ugg boots coach outlet online ferragamo outlet under armour outlet christian louboutin outlet off-white oakley sunglasses chrome hearts sunglasses fitflops sale nuggets jerseys coach outlet ralph lauren outlet burberry outlet kate spade outlet canada goose outlet football shirts canada goose outlet adidas crazy jazz jerseys moncler jackets adidas wings chelsea jersey canada goose outlet louboutin pas cher polo outlet kate spade outlet longchamp outlet coach outlet michael kors outlet pandora charms longchamp handbags nike revolution longchamp solde montblanc pens cheap jordans fred perry polo shirts cheap mlb jerseys coach outlet 20181017lck

On Oct 17, 2018 prince U.S wrote:


Wow i can say that this is another great article as expected of this blog.Bookmarked this site.. garage door repair company in seattle