I found a great quote from Charles Darwin yesterday regarding a visit he made in old age to his childhood home. The person who owned it when the elderly Darwin visited insisted on playing the host for Darwin, taking him from room to room at his (the host's pace) and talking non-stop about this and that and what had been done. Afterward, a weary Darwin remarked to his sister: "If I had been left alone in that greenhouse for five minutes, I know I should have been able to see my father in his wheel chair..."
This illustrated so perfectly to me the "unfortunate" state of life for many of us. I'm a teacher. Seldom during the course of my work day do I get a chance to string a few thoughts together without interruption, either from students or from co-workers, and if, perchance, I should find myself able to lean back in my chair for a moment and think, someone is sure to see me and ask, "are you OK? You look upset." I think I look happy inside my own head but most people have such little experience of that state that they can't help but judge it as something wrong.
Simply, our world does not allow much in the way of solitude. And many of us don't even seem to want it. I see students who are on the verge of a thought quickly getting on the cell phone to avoid it. I see people who walk in the door to their house, quiet finally after a long day, and immediately turn on the TV.
Solitude is not something to avoid. It is, rather, a place of sanity, a place of peace, a place quiet enough to hear your own self. And if you are a writer it is absolutely essential. I know this is why I take so many long walks, and why I don't mind at all having a few hours to myself. Solitude is a reward for the strain of living constantly among the noise of people. I don't want people to go away. I like quite a few people. I just want sometimes to go away myself. I want the human world to contract so that, in contrast, my own inner world can expand. Let's hear it for alone time.