My 2012 Greenbelt talk on solitude – Part 3

This is part three of my 2012 talk at Greenbelt on solitude.

And we start with a further irony about my book on the subject: it’s a conversation. Really?

It didn’t start out that way, but by the third draft it was a partial conversation and by the 4th draft, all conversation.

It was still all conversation after the 8th draft; and this is true to life. There’s always a conversation going on inside us:

‘How about some solitude today?’

‘Can’t do today – I’m too tense/angry/frightened.’

‘OK, you could bring those into your solitude.’

‘Maybe – we’ll see. I’ve also got a lot of things to do.’

‘That really isn’t a reason.’

So we begin to notice some of the dominant voices inside us determining our relationship to solitude.

Even as you read this, there are different voices inside you reacting. The contemplative voice is loving it; but the busy voice is not – and the frightened voice is screaming.

The book is a conversation because we are. And I wonder which voices you’re listening to now?

Perhaps it’s the controlling voice, ‘Why doesn’t he just cheer up a bit? Cheer up for God’s sake!’

The curious voice, ‘Is there something important here?’

The distracted voice, ‘It’s half-interesting so I’m half-watching a movie at the same time.’

Or the voice of low self-worth, ‘I don’t need this, I need action. Let’s have some noise. Where’s the hoover?’

Or the Contemplative voice, ‘This sounds like home.’

We begin to listen to the different/dominant voices inside us determining our relationship with solitude.

Not all solitude is the same, of course, it varies in quality.

In a few months’ time, we’re going to be choosing our mince pies. Which pies will you choose? I ask because they’re not all the same; like solitude, mince pies are on a continuum of quality.

They’re all mince pies but they’re not all equally good. Interestingly last year, Waitrose and Greggs came top equal. But you didn’t have to sell your house to buy the Greggs pies.

In the same way, not all silence is the same. If you’re sulking, that’s not solitude though it might become solitude. Or if you like to be alone ‘because you find people so irritating’ that’s not solitude – that’s judgment, avoidance, escapism.

And you may have learned to fear silence. Some silence is damaging to everyone around. Think of those who lived in homes where the rage and the fury was never expressed but lived there in the silences.

My God, wouldn’t you just hate silence then? Someone who has experienced that as a child is going to find solitude difficult, too many bad memories.

Part 4, the final episode, will be along soon…

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