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Chad Grant: “In Defense of Solitude”

In Defense of Solitude

by Chad Grant

The coronavirus is just an unfriendly reminder of how low I’ve sunk.

Today I learned of an English saint by the name of Thomas More. Who, while imprisoned in the 16th century for his refusal to acknowledge King Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England, wrote a book entitled A Dialogue of Comfort. More’s untimely death led to his canonization as a saint by the Catholic Church in 1935.

It is my aesthetic approach to life that seems to be the glue that has held me together for so long. Now, despite my lack of contact with those whom I consider[ed] friends (not out of wont, yet out of the financial binds which I find myself in), I find my solace with a never-ending search inward to find out who I am and the spirit of my being. It is in these times that I turn to my books. Books such as Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht, Solitude: A Return to the Self by Anthony Storr, The Talmud, The Bible, and the classic work The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Creativity comes through extremely trying times, isolation, and suffering. I heard it said somewhere, “Comfort for the artist is death.” I guess that’s why so many rock stars turn to drugs while in the midst of excellence. I guess that’s why I turn towards the pen whenever I haven’t an ear to hear me out.

Isolation helps me creatively as well. My imagination turns inside out whenever I am alone with a pen and pad. A few notable mentions are Dr. Edith Bone who wrote Seven Years Solitary and Christopher Burney who wrote Solitary Confinement. Both are two books that I will read once I find copies of these neglected classics. Always count your blessings, things could be a lot worse. In his book Solitude: A Return to the Self, Anthony Storr discusses the gift of imagination, which has robbed a man of contentment. The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, in his paper ‘Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming,’ wrote:

We may lay it down that a happy person never phantasies, only an unsatisfied one. The motive forces of phantasies are unsatisfied wishes, and every single phantasy is the fulfillment of a wish or a correction of an unsatisfied reality.

This goes back to Freud’s theory of the pleasure principle, where infants are originally dominated by the necessity to avoid pain; when instinctual needs such as food, warmth, or comfort are not met the infant would ‘hallucinate’ its need. Westerners are indeed great at this method of escapism. The discontent of the modern man has driven him towards a consumerist lifestyle where Nike, Levis, and Coca-Cola are staples on everyone’s shopping list. These are the so-called ‘gods’ of today.

But, as the Spanish painter Francisco Goya wrote in the epigraph to his painting Los Caprichos, “Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters; united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.”

***

The Loser

No one reads for pleasure,
So the word poison often
Gets ignored.
Torpidity is common,
And some draw a blank
When they drink
From the wells
Of forgetting.
But it’s a dull pain,
Unlike dying.
Dreams are like that,
When you’re young.
After all, who goes
By labels?

*

Thoughts of Revere

Your words
Are
Shadows of the
heart written
By sundials
Traced in the
Blueprints
Of the day.
A melody spun
In smoke and
Lethargy
In a passionate seance
With the mind’s
Eye.
There are songs
Written in the
Stars tonight.
The moon is
A claustrophobic
Dreamer
Orbiting
In a forgotten
Language
Of the soul.

***

(Featured image by Alistair Holmes; used under CC BY 2.0)

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