Very often on Saturday mornings — and sometimes even Sundays — I will rise from my bed grateful I have nothing planned for the day.Â I delight, as I did this morning, at the quiet of my apartment.Â I won’t turn on the TV or check the web.Â Instead, I’ll sit quietly at my desk reading a book, scribbling some notes or just pausing, listening to the rustle of the leaves as the wind moves through the tree outside my window.
Even if a close friend or beloved relative calls, I will regret the interruption.Â I’d rather have this time to myself.
I’ve often wondered if we all need such moments.Â Â Perhaps my observation of my fellows is limited, but sometimes it seems all too many can’t bear such quiet.Â They constantly seek activity or human presence.to fill the void.
Sometimes when I get angry e-mails from readers, those insulting me, calling me self-hating or a hyper-partisan or whatever slur they can come up with I wonder if this is their means of filling the void.Â Why, I wonder, do they so regularly check this blog, which they claim, so offends them?
It’s almost as if they have inverted George Eliot’s maxim:Â “The first condition of human goodness is something to love; the second, something to reverence.”*Â They seem to have decided the way to deal with their loneliness is by finding someone to revile and someone to demonize.
Expressing these hateful emotions help connect them to a community where criticism of Republicans is the defining idea.Â Fearful of feeling isolated, they need show their commitment to the cause by manifesting the depth of their malice, like the zeal of a convert.Â (Yes, we see this on the right as well, particularly in the ill-will of some extreme social conservatives toward gays.Â Note the frequency with which certain anti-gay zealots frequent gay sites or attend their conferences.)
I know I’m not alone in finding peace in such quiet moments and would daresay that many who disagree with me politically also enjoy such solitude from time to time.Â They’re the ones who write more thoughtful e-mails and offer more rational comments when taking issue with our posts.
While ours is a social species, given the way we have evolved, there will be times when we will be left on our own.Â And the real lesson of life is to see these moments as a blessing not a curse.
In her touching novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, May Sarton’s eponymous heroine considers her life as a solitary writer.Â She has learned to distinguish between loneliness and solitude:Â “Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is he richness of self.”
Perhaps, if more people understood her wisdom and we all sought the wealth within when cut off from the world, we might find ourselves less angry at our adversaries and more respectful of those who hold different views and have different longings.
*From the story, “Janet’s Repentance,” in Scenes of Clerical Life.
An interesting note about this post, the first time in a while where I did my entire research not by googling, but by searching from quotations in books from my personal library.