What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. 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
I have struggled, lately, to follow Emerson’s advice. I guess I let the world around me — especially the social media world — derail my focus that keeps me centered in solitude while immersed in the big crowd. I had to leave that crowd for a week to regroup, gather some strength, and resurface.
I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think we need to take a walkabout every now and then to find that focus again. It’s easy to be so derailed in the mind-blowing speed of the world that now whips around us.
I am blessed to have a friend who never ceases to provide a balanced dose of wisdom when I need it the most. Last week, as we were doing a ten-mile bike ride on the NCR Trail in northern Baltimore County, I was explaining to Trina why I deactivated my Facebook account.
“I needed to find that balance, Trina. I needed to get back to that core, that center and refocus.”
She didn’t respond immediately, but when she finally spoke, her words nearly made me steer completely off the trail and into the muddy trenches.
“Finding balance is not always a 50-50 thing. You just have to find the right percentages of the different things in your life that create that balance within you.”
Such simple advice, yet so very profound.
I don’t need to remove parts of my life that are causing me stress or concern; I need to evaluate how much I have allowed those things to permeate my every move. Social media is a perfect example. I realized, just in one week, how important my friends are to me online, and how essential those connections are for the work I am doing with Lines of Love, the fight against bullying, and the promotion of peace and living life fully.
Despite my efforts — even in one week — to do that without social media seemed like the worst exercise in futility I could ever attempt.
And so I am back, with my tail tucked a little between my legs, for being so dramatic with my parting. But at that time, I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t find that anchor to pull me out of that frustration, so I gave up and gave in.
This message to me is much bigger than social media, too. I am overwhelmed by the travesties and tragedies on our planet, taking place every single day. Yet, I choose to stay in the game, fighting back with love and faith. I must do the same thing online — have the same understanding that, in the not-so-little world of online social networking, the same travesties and tragedies are happening.
By giving in, by giving up, I am giving them the satisfaction (indirectly so) that they got to me. They pushed me away. And in that, they gained some strength.
I won’t give them that satisfaction. And I hope you won’t either. We cannot run from the hardest challenges we face; we must greet them and defeat them with the same loving kindness that nurtured us when we were newborns.
We must keep with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude as we live in this world, real or virtual (are they even that different anymore?).
And to do that, we need to be together, we need to unite, we need to run into — and not away from — the challenges we face.
All this, and with a happy heart to embrace life fully and with peace toward ourselves as well as toward others.
One thought on “The Sweetness of Solitude”
How do we ever learn unless we are willing to try new things? Was it Michael Jordan who said? “You always miss 100% of the shots you do not take” As a society we have such disdain for people who set a goal and for whatever reason regroup and re-evaluate. I am guilt of a grimace when I witness a professional athlete wipe out? I turn away? But the truth is that guy on the ski slope who wiped out after attempting someone ii could never do has courage wipe out or not. My 20 year old is coming home next week. He feels like a failure. He is concerned about how his father and I will view him. After 5 weeks in Navy bootcamp he “wiped” out. I could never have even had the courage to sign up. So is it a failure to change course? To change his mind? We should applaud him for taking a chance and for his willingness to try new things. Facts are just like my son I have missed you! And I am proud of you for trying something new. And I wondered how the hell were we ever going to sell books and get read without facebook?