Solitude – A Return to the Self by Anthony Storr.

A profoundly original exploration of solitude and its role in the lives of creative, fulfilled individuals

This book is an excellent companion reading to Quiet by Susan Cain. It was read in preparation for the Strategic HR New England book club session.

Solitude, written from the psychology perspective builds a sound foundation from the past into the thoughts of today. I say from the past since this book was published in 1988. Not only that, the examples from the past extend into Jung , Freud & Maslow; Bach, Mozart & Bethoven; Keats, Wordsworth & Tennyson; Byrd & Newton; various other philosophers, poets, writers & scientist; et al. Not everyone needs everyone else all the time. For true creativity, solitude is needed from the noisy world of constant social engagement.

This is a ‘thick’ book to read as it is filled with necessary psychology & psychiatric precise technical terms, aka jargon. Not much different than books that seek to analyze the methods of academic & intellectual philosophy. Fortunately, Storr breaks up the tedious monotony with selected supporting & explanatory extracts.

Polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd is one of those selected. From his autobiography Alone:

I wanted something more than just privacy in the geographic sense. I wanted to sink roots into some replenishing philosophy

So he spent a winter manning an advanced weather in the Antarctic during the winter of 1934, latitude 89 degrees.

From the HR perspective, this is all about mental, social & intellectual diversity. Seemingly withdrawn employees may be engaged in deep thought to find & develop strategic business critical insights. Not every idea has to emerge through the forced consensus of group brainstorming. As Storr writes;

“Ideas are sensitive plants which wilt if exposed to premature scrutiny”.

Listening to the silence of solitude is an idea incubator.

An unstated goal of idea development through deep introspection may be an oceanic feeling that results in an emotional experience of ecstasy. Byrd writing best illustrates this experience:

Took my daily walk at 4 p.m. today in 89 degrees of frost…I paused to listen to the silence … the day was dying, the night being born – but with great peace. Here were the imponderable processes and forces of the cosmos, harmonious and soundless. Harmony, that was it! That is what came out of the silence – a gentle rhythm, the strain of a perfect chord, the music of spheres, perhaps.

It was enough to catch that rhythm, momentarily to be myself a part of it. In that instant, I could feel no doubt of man’s oneness with the universe…the universe was a cosmos, not a chaos; man as a rightfully a part of that cosmos as were the day and night.

Introversion & solitude are distinctly relevant, yet may be separate considerations. Now onto ‘party of one’ – The Loner’s Manifesto by anneli Rufus

The better we understand ourselves, the better we may be understood or at least better understand others.

The mob thinks we are maladjusted. Of course we are adjusted just fine, not to their frequency. They take it personally.
anneli Rufus


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