A Fortress of Solitude

The thoughtful soul to solitude retires.
— Omar Khayyam

Superman's sometimes, often-relocated headquarters has an interesting name (I've never been much of a Superman fan). For some people I know, solitude is an undesirable condition, one to be remedied by social activities and social connectivity. It is a weakened state, one of vulnerability, loneliness and isolation. Not feelings that we associate with the name 'Fortress'. A fortress is strong, defiant, resilient, tactical and strategic. Superman and I agree on one thing: solitude is a source of vigour - a retreat to gather one's fortitude.

Loneliness is failed solitude, if you don’t teach your children how to be alone then they will only know how to be lonely.
— Sherry Turkle

It's easy to understand how solitude, particularly imposed solitude (or what feels  like imposed solitude) begins to have a negative effect on a person's wellbeing. We are social creatures who struggle at times to balance the lives we hold individually, privately and with our peers. Still, most of us I suspect appreciate our time alone, even more so when it is precious and fleeting.

Solitude is a welcome respite from the world in seemingly obvious but profound ways; an escape from distraction, an evasion of obstacles to creativity and thought. How many of us fill our ears with music during the day to obfuscate the drone of the office and find detachment in the crowd? In many ways we require isolation for cognitive function - a reduction of stimuli to promote focus and concentration. This principle is only magnified when one makes time to be truly alone.

Conversation enriches understanding, but solitude is the school of genius.
— Edward Gibbon

While the desire for solitude is subjective the need is universal, and sometimes we unfairly attach negative prejudice to reclusive behaviour. Seeking solitude should not automatically be considered a cause for concern.

Keynote 2013

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