#109 – Silence, Simplicity and Solitude

 Surely joy is the condition of life!  (1)

Yes, many of the people we most admire throughout human history would have agreed with Thoreau that joy is our natural state—but …! Many of us hate those “buts” and with good reason. Most us have chosen not to live in our natural state, that of the present moment, but we could always choose to do so. How exactly, would we do that? More about that in a moment.

Most of us are among the marching, mindless minions heading in the direction away from joy. If we want to change our heading we would do well to listen to Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau feared some time ago that Americans were choosing a path that was fraught with bad judgment. His insights occurred in part because of his experience living at Walden Pond.

We would all do well to emulate Thoreau’s Walden Pond experience. In doing so we need to be looking for universal principles of human behavior that resonate with something deep within our intuitive self—our True self.

Thoreau’s “celebration of life and his call for all men to recognize the potential magnificence of life [became] the core idea or unifying theme of Walden.” (2)  “And so seeking to ‘simplify, simplify,’ he [Thoreau] repaired to the shores of Walden Pond, where he built a one-room structure measuring 10 feet by 15 feet by 8 feet.” (1)  Our first principle on the path to joy then is simplicity.

Emerson urged Thoreau to also seek solitude which, of course he found at Walden Pond. Obviously in our modern society this will require a strong intention and a highly disciplined personality. Solitude will give our energy an inward direction. At Walden, Thoreau “celebrates the feeling of having left behind his old self, the spiritually-asleep creature made lifeless by ‘the dead dry life of society’ for the sake of a new and ecstatic spiritual life.” (2)

And finally, we have the principle advocated by Brother Bernie, the prior of a Benedictine abbey. “He describes the monastery as a ‘fridge magnet,’ something that reminds the rest of the world that it doesn’t have as much to say as it thinks it might.” (3)  What with social media and our constant yapping, this principle will also be a challenge. So let’s all relax, stop talking and experience the profound and nurturing silence.

To travel more deeply into the experience of silence, simplicity and solitude click on the link below.

Insight # 109:  When from our better selves we have been too long parted by our hurrying world.   —Wordsworth



  1. Montaigne, Fen. “American Surveyor.” The New York Times Book Review. July 23, 2017, page 17.
  2. McElrath, Joseph R. Jr. Walden. Lincoln: Cliff’s Notes, Inc., 1971, pages 18 & 19.
  3. McGirr, Michael. “Sink Into the Silence of Summer.” The New York Times Sunday. July 23, 2017, page 9.

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