Abdullah Sulaiman is a general engineering junior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not represent the viewpoints or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
In today’s society, some people have a fear of being considered a “loner” or friendless. When people are alone or not conversing with others, they take out their phones and try to stay connected or, at the very least, pretend to be texting or occupied. Seldom can people sit in silence by themselves, let alone with another person.
A lot of the time these people care too much about what others think of them, instead of what they think of themselves. People who fear being alone and care too much about what others think are doing a great disservice to themselves. There are benefits to being sociable, but there are also valid reasons why solitude and silence are needed.
As humans, we need each other. We need companions to lean on. We need family to support us. We need human interaction to stay sane. As Abraham Maslow theorized, we need love and belonging in our lives, which he placed just above basic physiological needs and safety in his hierarchy of needs. So it is no surprise why many place high value on family and friendship.
The problem arises when one places too much value in belonging and therefore feels a need to belong to everything and anything. Consequently the value we hold of our own opinions is lowered. Validation starts to come from places outside of ourselves.
In order to find the value of solitude, we must first define it. Solitude is the state of being alone. Adding silence to solitude just means that you are alone with no distractions, such as music, phones or anything that takes up your mental capacity. However, solitude does not necessitate isolation, just aloneness. So one can be anywhere and still be in a state of solitude.
When you are alone and not distracting yourself with anything except your current thoughts and the present moment, you can think. From this, you are enabled to do other important cognitive tasks.
You are able to reflect on events or concepts you have learned earlier in the day or week and possibly come to terms with any problems you’re facing. Reflecting on learned concepts can help you breakdown, understand and clarify any topics you may have not understood earlier. Moreover, reflecting on problems in your life can lift your mood, and help find solutions or come to terms with the problems you cannot change. This ultimately promotes a stronger grasp of concepts you don’t understand, as well as a better state of psychological well-being.
The second and most important cognitive task is to rationalize the world around us, something we all know how to do, but must practice continuously. You can make observations of people, your surroundings, and nature, and theorize for yourself about how and why we do the things we do. This process, though mentally tasking, enables one to figure out valid opinions that are their own, or at least keep one’s mind open; as well as helping to define one’s own desires and aversions.
Solitude and silence. Who would’ve thought this state would be the very thing many people today strive to avoid? However, taking advantage of this state allows you to cultivate the mind. We see how being alone and in the silence of your own thoughts can improve one of the very things that makes us human, the ability to rationalize. Through rationalization, we lend ourselves the ability to formulate our own opinion about things and find a logical set of desires and aversions. We enjoy the fruits of reflection. Whether it’s reflecting on complex concepts learned in school or dealing with an issue present in my life, one can understand, grow and move on.
So go out there and be proud to eat by yourself, sit in a coffee shop and observe life happening or meditate in nature, because the only belonging you are missing out on is your own.