The characteristics of the solitary bird are fivefold:
First, it flies towards the highest point
Second, it does not tolerate companions
Third, it aims its beak to the sky
Fourth, it has no definite colour
Fifth, it sings most sweetly.
Close your eyes and feel your presence, enjoy your own company.
Search for solitude. This is the way a leader builds his integrity and acquires power.
We all tasted immortality. It was during the physical gestation, when for nine months (but in fact for an endless time) we have been aquatic, dreaming beings, floating in the amniotic liquid. And while for zoological beings this is the only gestation, necessary and sufficient ‘to come to this world’, for human beings this physical gestation is followed by an age of development, a sort of long psychological gestation, which continues until the age of 18-20. Therefore the news I am giving to the youngest of you is that you were not born around 1990, but as complete beings, you are having birth now, in 2010. And just now, like Narcissus, you are looking at yourself in the mirror of the world and no parent or teacher, no school or university, has prepared you to recognise your image in what you touch and see around you.
Up to now you have been in the shell, family has protected you; now you are starting to bare your own reflection in the world, and the image in front of you is not always pleasant. You start to experience the first disappointments, the first misfortunes, some accidents, sentimental delusions, apparent problems… And not recognising them as the reflection of your being, you have already got used to complain, to blame and accuse others, to hide, to lie, to feel sorry for yourselves. These are the clear signs that you are becoming part of the dark sea of adulthood. Adult has not a very nice etimo. It comes from adulteration. We could say that an adult is an adulterated being, a child who has stopped dreaming. You are going to be hypnotised by a description, a tale of the external world, like 99.9% of grown-up people. You spend most of your time out of yourself, with others; and if occasionally you are alone, you are waiting for something to happen, a phone ringing, a person or event that can bring you life from the outside. Longing all the time for the company of others is like to depend on a lung-machine for breathing. Following others, living in their shadow, imitating others and whatever is cool, trendy, makes your life banal.
Be ahead of fashion! Put it behind you. Be yourself… The others will be imitating you. To achieve this state of freedom, of independent thinking, you have to know yourself, you have to find out who you really are. It is necessary to reduce the hours that are spent in ordinary activities, working out of home, absorbed, immerged in the external world, and stay some time in solitude, alone with yourself. Spend more time being in your own company, free from any kind of conditioning. Do it intentionally if you wish to achieve a life rich in all senses.
For most people, and especially young people, to spend time alone is unbearable. They search for others to fill their solitude, they stuff their lives with engagements and events; their agendas are crammed of meetings and appointments. In the effort to escape from themselves, and the unbearable burden of a forced loneliness, they look for the crowd, they gather in its temples: cinemas, theatres, stadiums, they huddle in a group with others and they are at ease wherever they can feel the reassuring presence of the crowd. Multiplicity of events and commitments, external circumstances, an unceasing flow of facts, of insignificant experiences, the constant presence of the others in our lives, are all indicators of the incapability of living in solitude. People do not like to spend time in their own company and when, obliged by circumstances, they happen to be alone, they turn on the TV, make a phone call, listen to music or look for the company of a book. What I have learned from the Dreamer, and which I have narrated in The School for Gods, the incapacity to be alone, the compulsive need for others, are symptoms of a self-destructive inclination, although unconscious. People, especially youth, do not bear solitude because they don’t love themselves.
The inability to love themselves leads to a kind of self-sabotage that may come about in various guise, through harmful attitudes and habits, like smoking, assumption of drugs, abuse of alcohol, but also provoking apparently involuntary, unpredictable accidents… like the many casualties for road accidents that happen after leaving a party or a disco. Solitude is fortitude. Solitude has to be felt as a friend. We need to learn how to feel good on our own, loving ourselves. The more we live in solitude the more occurrences disappear and number of people we meet shortens to make space for more intense encounters and more real events.
There is an internal time and an external time. Schools and universities should transfer to their students the intelligence that one must balance them, that we must dedicate to ourselves at least as much time as we dedicate to others and the external world. Differently, will be left without the oil in the lamp, with our being deprived of the ‘precious essence’. When you are alone, you must learn how to live beautiful moments in a conscious, intentional, creative solitude if you do not want to live bad moments in a forced loneliness. Anytime you can, take the opportunity to transform loneliness into precious time to enter into yourself, to practice the most fruitful of all activities: observing, studying, knowing yourself.
You should realize, and then explain to your children, that to stay by yourself means to build yourself, to strengthen yourself. It is necessary to learn how to transform loneliness into creative solitude. Creative solitude means to have self-control, it means to master your emotions, to possess your inner world. In not comprehending this, people search for fulfilment and happiness in the outside world, they try to find certainty in the eyes of others. But the world, the outside reality is only a mirror. Things happen only because you are. There is nothing out there. Nothing at all. Also the people that you meet and deem real, are nothing but your reflections. In reality, you only meet yourself. There is no greater adventure, no work more useful than that of encountering others and recognising them as projections of our thinking, our states, our values. One day you will realise that you are the Dreamer and not the dreamed, the Creator and not the creation, and that everything is at your service. Then you will no longer be dependent. Close your eyes and feel your presence, enjoy your own company. Search for solitude. This is the way a leader builds his integrity and acquires power: being with himself. He knows that power cannot come from the world, cannot be given to him by others. Only a few ‘greats’ of history have arrived at feeling inside themselves this sense of vastness, knowing that they could not depend on others, that they could not ask anything of anyone.
A leaders is alone. He builds himself from the inside, in solitude. Alone with himself, in stillness and silence, he can catch a fragment of eternity to enlarge his thinking, to invite large, courageous ideas and solutions beyond imagination. There he finds the strength to take decisions that always go against existing ‘status quo’, common opinion and the convictions of others. His certainty comes from his integrity, the belief that everything depend on him and he can only rely on himself.
Solitude versus others, individual versus mass is a great argument that needs to be brought further and deeper. Others are you. Are you in time. Whoever you meet measures the distance that you have inside. The others are you distant from you. When they have too much significance in your life, is a worrying sign that soon or later you can be trapped. But this will be matter for my next article and I look forward to discussing it with you.
Prof. Stefano D’Anna