“If I swim a mile, the first half hour might be drudgery, but somewhere in the middle it catches fire.”
“You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love,”Louise Bourgeois wrote to a friend in contemplating how solitude enriches creative work. But solitude — the most creatively fecund kind of which the psychoanalyst Adam Philips termed“fertile solitude” — is only one flavor of aloneness. The physical state of being alone can also be colored by the dramatically different psychic conditions of isolation and loneliness.
Freedom owes its vitality to destiny, and destiny owes its significance to freedom. Our talents, our gifts, are on loan, to be called in at any moment by death, by illness, or by any one of the countless other happenings over which we have no direct control. Freedom is that essential to our lives, but it is also that precarious
In his beautiful 1948 manifesto forbreaking the tyranny of technology and relearning to be nourished by nature, Henry Beston lamented: “What has come over our age is an alienation from Nature unexampled in human history. It has cost us our sense of reality and all but cost us our humanity.” And yet his admonition fell on ears increasingly unhearing as the decades rolled on with their so-called progress. The poet Jane Hirshfield captured this in her stirring anthem against the silencing of nature: “The silence spoke loudly of silence, / and the rivers kept speaking, / of rivers, of boulders and air.”
“The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is,” Kurt Vonnegut observed in discussing Hamlet during hisinfluential lecture on the shapes of stories.“The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad,” Alan Watts wrote a generation earlier in his sobering case for learning not to think in terms of gain or loss. And yet most of us spend swaths of our days worrying about the prospect of events we judge to be negative, potential losses driven by what we perceive to be “bad news.” In the 1930s, one pastor itemized anxiety into five categories of worries, four of which imaginary and the fifth, “worries that have a real foundation,” occupying “possibly 8% of the total.” A Stoic’s Key to Peace of Mind: Seneca on the Antidote to Anxiety
“Who has known the ocean? Neither you nor I, with our earth-bound senses, know the foam and surge of the tide,” pioneering conservationist and marine biologist Rachel Carson wrote in the 1937 masterpiece that inspired a new aesthetic of lyrical science writing. A century earlier, another woman of towering genius, immense moral courage, and uncommonly poetic prose offered a different but complementary perspective on the ocean’s invitation to human self-transcendence.
You are wise enough to understand that being “a little lonely” is not a bad thing. A writer’s occupation is one of the loneliest in the world, even if the loneliness is only an inner solitude and isolation, for that he must have at times if he is to be truly creative. And so I believe only the person who knows and is not afraid of loneliness should aspire to be a writer. But there are also rewards that are rich and peculiarly satisfying Rachel Carson on Writing and the Loneliness of Creative Work