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Solitude - Perspectives No. 226

Solitude

Perspectives No. 226

An Artist in His Studio, 1904, John Singer Sargent
An Artist in His Studio          1904          John Singer Sargent

"What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone
in the forest, at night, cherished by this
wonderful, unintelligible,
perfectly innocent speech,
the most comforting speech in the world,
the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges,
and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it.
It will talk as long as it wants, this rain
As long as it talks I am going to listen." - Thomas Merton


   True solitude can be hard to find in this noisy, hyper-connected world of ours. Artists often seek it out in order to get in touch with their innermost thoughts and feelings. We find that a certain amount of solitude is necessary for helping our minds to quiet and our creativity to bloom. Solitude also facilitates focus when we put brush to canvas. But solitude is not an easy state for everyone. Being alone with our thoughts can be daunting - even a bit scary at times. The mind continues to churn out all manner of irrelevant noise just when we are trying hardest to concentrate on our work at the easel. It takes practice to focus on the positive and the joy that lies in our work, and to screen out the rest. It is a necessary skill in and of itself - one that many never acquire a taste for. Solitude is so often the key to opening the great doors of creativity and innovation.

 "On the other hand, although I have a regular work schedule, I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head. If my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a workday and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my imagination.” - Albert Einstein

   It was shocking to learn recently that some people are so averse to solitude that they actually prefer pain to simply being alone with their thoughts. We just read in Scientific American magazine a synopsis of a study led by Timothy Wilson, a psychologist at the University of Virginia. Almost half of the 409 participants in the study said they did not like the experience of being alone in a room with nothing to do. Even more surprising, when 55 participants were left seated alone in a quiet, empty room for fifteen minutes with only access to a button that would deliver an electric shock to their ankles if pushed, 67% of the men and 25% of the women in the study elected to push the button! (They had previously felt the shock and found it to be unpleasant.)  

   Of course, this problem is nothing new. In the 17th century, French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal observed, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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