Solitude

Ever notice how you have the best thoughts in the shower? You know what I mean, those “aha!” moments where you finally figure something out. Maybe it’s the solution to a problem you haven’t been able to solve, or it’s a brilliant new business idea. There’s a reason you have some of your best thoughts in the shower. Solitude. You’re alone; with your thoughts, with God, with the spirits, whatever. You have time to hear that voice inside your head, to figure things out – even to figure out who you are. You’re not distracted by the television, or the radio, or the computer, or the smartphone, or other people. It’s just you and the voice. Alone. Free. For a few precious moments. These moments are invaluable, if you use them properly. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” 1

Solitude on a lake. Photo by anoldent.

That’s easy to say, right? But doing it is another matter. We live in a busy world that’s full of noise, with things to do and people to see. It can be hard to even come by spare moments, much less guard them well. As time goes on, this is becoming more and more of a reality, making it all the more important that you do guard them well.

People and things are constantly demanding your attention, and these attention seekers have a bigger effect than you may realize. Any time something has your attention, it essentially has control of your mind, for that moment. When you watch the news, your mind thinks about what they say. When you listen to the radio, whether it be music or talk shows, you think about what they say. When you have conversations with people, you think about what they say. Even reading this you’re thinking about what I’m saying. That’s all fairly obvious until you realize that if you don’t make time for solitude, your life is made up almost entirely of these moments where someone or something else is controlling your mind, drowning out that voice inside your head.

Solitude on the beach. Photo by Moyan Brenn.

The voice inside your head is a wise one. It knows things. Listening to it and developing a relationship with it (or with God or the spirits or whatever you believe) makes both it and you stronger. The thing is, it’s hard to hear that voice and to develop that relationship when everything is constantly demanding your attention. You must make time for solitude.

Some of the greatest and most prominent figures of all time – Buddha, Beethoven, Einstein, Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Newton, Thoreau – made time for solitude to deal with the demands of daily life. They had crucial revelations during their alone time. They knew the value of solitude and so should you.

You must recognize the value of these spare moments and stop treating them like a problem that needs to be solved by some gadget that drowns out that voice. But you can’t take it lightly and only make time once a week or once a month. As you must spend plenty of time with your family and friends to develop a solid relationship, you must spend plenty of time with yourself and that voice to really develop the relationship.

Don’t let our culture teach you to throw out these uncut diamonds. Hold onto them. Make time for them. Polish them. Listen to that voice inside your head. Develop that relationship. The more attention you give it, the more you polish and improve it, and the more valuable it becomes to you and to the people and the world around you.

We’re all different and I can’t tell you how life changing it will be for you. You have to figure that out on your own. I can only tell you that it has been life changing for me and for everyone I know who has taken the time to do the same.

Guard well your spare moments. You need them. You deserve them.

Now go take a shower.

Footnotes

1. This quote has been heavily attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I haven’t been able to find it in any of his writings. Searching the internet to find when and where he said or wrote this hasn’t been fruitful, as this quote is so widely used all I’ve been able to find are regurgitations of the quote and not its origin. Any insight into when and where he said this, if indeed he did, would be greatly appreciated.

Hear me. Please?

Daddy went to work. Mama went to work. My brother and I went to daycare, and then on to school, to grow up with strangers, only spending time with our family in the remnants of the days.

All of us apart all day long. Spending our days – our lives – apart, only to reunite at the end of the day when we are tired and grumpy from running the rat race.

Family is relegated to the margins, as if being with strangers is more important. Nothing is more important than family, they say. People say all sorts of things they don’t mean.

It’s no wonder we cry to be heard. Facebook this. Twitter that. Look where I am. Look what I bought. Look at me.

Hear me. Please?

Tweeting your weight is not the future

If this is the future, shoot me now.

I don’t like frictionless sharing. It adds a ton of noise, little or no value, and dilutes existing value. It creates problems and solves nothing.

We need more thoughtful and purposeful sharing, not mindless automated sharing. Quality over quantity. Help prevent this mindless noise and abstain from automated sharing.

Besides, what’s social about mindless automation?

Turn off your TV

Television is one of the biggest addictions in our culture. Most people catch at least a few minutes of TV every day, and according to studies, many people watch it for several hours every day. It seems that most of us can’t do without TV.

There are plenty of advertisements on TV that warn us of the dangers of drug addiction, sex addition, and other forms of addictions. There are even shows based on addiction. So why don’t see anything about television addiction? If addiction is bad, then it stands to reason that addiction to TV is bad, too. Right?

We have TVs in the den, the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom, and in restaurants and doctors’ offices. TVs are everywhere. We have to actually make effort to get away from them.

If you live to be 80 years old, you’ll live 960 months. That’s a lot of months. Think about it. 960. Wow! Can you go just one month without TV?

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I used to be hooked on TV, but now I don’t even own one. I gave it away years ago.

Without the comfort and distraction of TV, what will happen in your brain? In your marriage? In the lives of your children?

If you turn off the TV for just one month, and you decide to turn it back on afterwards, you will see it in a completely different way. It will look very different to you.

Give it a shot. You will come out of this experiment a different person. I dare say a better person.

Challenge yourself. Turn off your TV.

Here we go

Back many years ago, when granny was young and grass was green, I used to blog quite frequently. This was before it was even called blogging. I was a young buck and had a different set of interests than I do today. A lot of the stuff I wrote wasn’t very thoughtful or useful to others, but it served a purpose for me at that time. I lost interest and quit and haven’t written on a regular basis since.

Today I’m going to try my hand at this blogging thing again. The topics will probably vary quite a bit, as I have a rambling mind and a wide set of interests, but I suspect that culture, photography, and technology will be common themes. But, basically anything I find interesting, thought-provoking, funny, annoying or worthy of sharing may show up here.

If you want to keep up with my musings here, please bookmark the site, subscribe to the RSS feed, and/or follow me on Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

Watermelon at Grandma’s house

Growing up we spent a lot of time at grandma’s house. We were there most Sundays it seemed, with dozens of us lining up in the kitchen to get our share of the big feast the ladies had prepared. And a feast it was.

Grandpa spent a lot of time tending to the great big gardens that fed the large crowds that assembled every Sunday and the even larger crowds that came on holidays. Grandpa was a truck driver, and when he wasn’t driving he was doing one of two things. He was either gardening or he was sitting in “the chair”, where he went from periods of watching television to sawing logs.

WatermelonGrandpa grew just about every fruit and vegetable that would grow in those parts. Corn, potatoes, tomatoes, lima beans, green beans, squash, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, strawberries, peaches, etc, etc, etc. And watermelon. For some reason watermelon was always the best. The treat all us kids loved more than the rest. I don’t know why that is, but I suspect if there are still any kids in America growing up this way watermelon is their favorite too.

We kids would play all day running around the farm, playing in the woods, climbing trees, getting on top of the shed, playing on the tractor, and playing whatever games we made up that day. Then we’d run through the field to the watermelon patch and find a couple of good, ripe watermelons and haul them back up to the house. We couldn’t wait until the watermelons were chilled in the refrigerator. We had to eat them right away. We’d hold them about knee high, drop them on the ground, and rejoice in the sound and sight of them cracking open and exposing the bright red center.

Some of us ate the watermelon with salt and some of us didn’t. I never did like salt with mine and couldn’t really understand how anyone could. Watermelon and salt just doesn’t go together in my book. But the end result was the same. We all enjoyed the fresh watermelon on a hot summer day.

Grandpa has long since passed. Grandma has Alzheimer’s and this week we had to put her in a nursing home. It’s a sad thing to have all these good memories of your grandma from childhood and come to the realization that a good person is nearing the end. We shared laughs and talked about the old times. She can remember most everything that happened from those days. It’s the current things she can’t seem to remember very well. We talked about the big gardens, snapping the green beans, canning the tomatoes, and all the other chores that come from growing your own food and living on a farm. You know, to this day the smell of tomatoes cooking reminds me of childhood summers at grandma’s house.

We also talked about eating the watermelons in the front yard under the big oak trees. Great memories. Hopefully memories that neither of us will ever forget.