Seeking solitude to reflect
As deadlines loom, exams encroach and holidays with family and friends beckon, it is easy to feel a pang of loneliness during the final cram. The college culture doesn’t encourage students to spend time on their own. Between classes, meals in the Caf, group “study” sessions, late night intramural games and roommates, solitude must be sought.
Jesus sometimes sought solitude
Many students seem to view stillness as a type of punishment, however I found seven instances in the Bible where Jesus sought to escape the crowds. In Matthew 14 Jesus seeks solitude twice. The first instance is after the beheading of John the Baptist. This type of solitude does seem negative, mourning perhaps, the loss of his earthly friend. However, the second account is Jesus seeking solitude after feeding the 5,000. Matthew 14:23 states that “after he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.” After the crowd, he wants to be alone. This genre of stillness is not one of sadness, it is a rejuvenation. The example should be applied now, as students need the final surge to shuttle them to the close of the semester.
Technology changed privacy
It’s easy to overlook what a toll the constant interaction can have on our physical and mental abilities. The Jews actually have a notion that a person can obtain injury by seeing or by being seen. This is called the hezek re’iyah. In our modern world, we strive to make ourselves seen. Think for a moment about how privacy has changed with technology. In a famous Harvard Law Review entitled “The Right to Privacy,” attorney Samuel Warren and associate Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis state that “numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that ‘what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops.’” This was written in 1890.
Over a hundred years ago, these men began to fear for how privacy would change with the evolution of technology. Between Twitter and Facebook updates, your phone buzzes, beeps and hums for your attention at any given moment. Have you ever looked at how many text messages you send in a month? I sent 399 in November. That is about 13 text messages a day … and I don’t even like texting.
Now I’m not saying that you need to unplug yourself from technology, but it is worth considering how much of your life is exposed. In the famous 1971 court case concerning the invasion of privacy entitled, Dietemann v. Time, privacy is defined as a set of circles. Only you exist in the inmost circle. The second one includes one other person, the third a handful of others and the fourth casual acquaintances. Your privacy lies in your ability to regulate who comes in and out of these circles. Funny isn’t it, these lines are pretty obsolete on Facebook, and people voluntarily bare their souls to the world through their blogs. It is no wonder that solitude seems so distant.
Solitude encourages refreshment and reflection
Most of us are probably familiar with Socrates’ famous statement that the unexamined life is not worth living. Reflection is needed to grow, to sift, sort and categorize all the information and data. With an entire semester worth of knowledge swimming in our heads, I can’t imagine a better time to sanction off to spend alone. Some of our best thoughts come in the stillness.
“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude,” said Nikola Tesla, a man famous for his work in electromagnetism. “Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone — that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
We’re scholars, studying our passions and pursuing our dreams. Don’t we all want ideas to be born? To go home excited to share new knowledge? Our time here is precious, and it can be so hard to step out of the crowd and be alone. But it’s okay. Slink into the library and mull over your class notes. Tell your friends that you can’t go to Disneyland and sit alone in your room, pouring energy into your paper. It’s not selfish, it shows humility and modesty. Less than three weeks of school remain, the time has come to escape the crowds and let your mind freely expand in the stillness of your solitude.