The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (Part 2)

The Failures of Heroism

The Spell Cast by Persons – The Nexus of Unfreedom. Men must hide from the truth. Men have followed leaders who seemed larger than life. Men worship power. There seems to be some fascination over those who have power. Do famous people have a halo around them? Some men respect their doctors so much that they think they are larger than life. Hypnosis is certainly possible. We all fear not being in full control of ourselves. Ferenczi admitted that we in our innermost soul, we are still children and we remain so throughout life. We all still feel the need to be subject to someone, just like how we were subject to our parents when we were younger. Freud performed a lot of research on group psychology. He tried to understand why men were so sheeplike when they functioned in groups. They fell under the sheep of their leader. He has an extreme passion for authority and wants to govern by unrestricted force. People like being in groups because it makes them feel safe. They feel safe in the group, but all this is an illusion. Every man feels like an omnipotent hero. Erich Fromm believed in narcissism. There were problems with Freud’s theory too. The leader had some traits which enabled him to hold the group together. He allowed the followers to express forbidden impulses and secret wishes. He wipes out fear in people. People think they engage in illegal activities as a group. Men likes to crave illusion. People use the leader to fulfil their own needs and urges. People use the leaders as almost as an excuse. Being in a group helps man take on individual responsibility. The leader takes the responsibility for all evil acts committed. To Freud, humans have a sexual instinct. Transference is a problem of courage. Transference could be seen as a fetish control. It literally means the need for man to exert complete control over external circumstances. Man will project all of his human qualities on an object. However, if he loses the object, he fears that he might lose himself. You can even make your own body that object. Transference is a form of narrow control that anchors our own problems. Some see transference as a fear of life. The Universe has overwhelming power but we can endow certain persons with it. The transference object becomes an obsession for the person. The more you fear death, the more you see the need for transference objects. Some people see transference as the fear of death. Now, you need the transference figure to assure your immortality and carry on you causa-sui project. It will provide shelter on your life. People want heroes for their own immortalization. When the object dies, people start to panic. Men always strives to be good. All organisms strive to feel good about themselves. The feeling is even stronger in Man. However, what is ‘right’ is not straightforward. Man feels tremblingly small and impotent in the face of transcendent nature. Rank understood the human condition really well. Transference is almost a universal passion. To Rank, Man worshipped God because of an outgrowth of life-longing and the need for meaning. This is the duality of man. Men want to be associated with values that endure. There is a school of thought where people use transference as an urge to higher heroism.

Man is a trembling animal who pulls the world down around his shoulders as he clutches for protection and support and tries to affirm in a cowardly way his feeble powers. – Ernest Becker

Transference heroics gives man precisely what he needs: a certain degree of sharply defined individuality, a definite point of reference for his practice of goodness, and all within a certain secure level of safety and control. – Ernest Becker

If all people are more or less alike, why do we burn with such all-consuming passions for some of them? – Ernest Becker

If Man gives in to his natural feeling of cosmic dependence, the desire to be part of something bigger, it puts him at peace and at oneness, gives him a sense of self-expansion in a larger beyond, and so heightens his being, giving him truly a feeling of transcendent value. – Ernest Becker

How do I realize my distinctive gifts, make my own contribution to the world through my own self-expansion? – Ernest Becker

Individuation means that the human creature has to oppose itself to the rest of nature. It crates precisely the isolation that one can’t stand – and yet needs in order to develop distinctively. It creates the difference that becomes such a burden; it accents the smallness of oneself and the sticking-outness at the same time. – Ernest Becker

Otto Rank and the Closure of Psychoanalysis on Kierkegaard. Creature consciousness is absorbed in culture. Back in the day, men was happy to serve God. Christianity made heroes of everyone. Christianity took creature consciousness and made it the condition for his cosmic heroism. For men without religion, they had to find a love object. Salvation is transference beatification. Love is the highest form of striving. Modern man is dependent on the love partner. In a relationship, we accept the other person’s body and things can joined in unity. Death is seen as the twin brother of sex. Sex ensures that the creature created will eventually die. Resistance to sex seems like a resistance to fatality. A child, will reach a stage where he will be curious about how he got his body. The body is something to triumph over. Personality is ultimately destroyed by sex. Is it good to lose yourself in another person? How can a human be a god-like thing to everything else? We expect perfection from our loved ones, but sometimes they disappoint. We feel diminished by their weaknesses. We elevate our love partner to God status because we want redemption. We need to admit our creatureliness and helplessness. Having guilt free sex might not be good too. It is defeating to want too little from your partner. Cosmic heroism must transcend human relationships. However, doing so might affect one’s quality of life and one’s individuality. Most people live based on societal norms. Women often get married, but are not happy because she sacrifices her individual personality. However, there is an aspect of self-surrender in it too. The problem with individuation is that one separates from the herd. This is the creative guy. The creative person must fashion his own idea of existence. His work is his form of ‘heroism’. However, how can one justify his own heroism? No one has a right to play God. However, the artist knows that how he is judged by others still matters and still needs to obtain meaning from outside. No matter how great his work is, he knows he pales in comparison to the transcending majesty of nature. The only way out of this is that one has to give one’s life as a gift to the powers out there. Your creative work on its own cannot provide a source of salvation. Rank wanted man to live beyond the limits set for himself. One should reach for religion. Rank thought that Man needed a religious ideology.

The idea of himself as a special cosmic hero with special gifts for the Universe. He doesn’t want to be a mere fornicating animal like any other – this is not a truly human meaning, a truly distinctive contribution to world life. – Ernest Becker

The Present Outcome of Psychoanalysis. Rank wrote about neurosis. It sums out the problems of human life. Freud could reduce insights to a few fundamental theories. The first aspect of neurosis is the trouble of the truth of existence. Everyone has their own stylistic reaction to life. It is also historical in nature. As a human, to protect ourselves, we have to shut off outside experience. This is known was ‘partialization’. Men are built more like creatures than Gods. Men thinks about the small problems instead of the big ones like life and death. Hence, men sort of refuses reality, or the ‘refusal of reality’. When the world is too much for people, neurosis sets in. Neurosis is universal in nature. Some people make their loved one their all. His ‘safe’ environment has failed him. Guilt often results due to an unused life. This is when we have potential, but failed to live according to our potential. Do not narrow-down the world too much. Some people get stuck in the narrowness. If you feel vulnerable, it is because you are not big enough to face the fears of the Universe. Some people’s fears are hysterical and have no explanation. However, they don’t know what the problem is. In order to avoid death, the person narrows down on his world. This results in isolation. Another type of neurosis, is when a person has too vivid imagination. This is a total problem. If you cannot narrow down the world, the world might seem too confusing. Some individuals cannot separate and some cannot unite. One needs to find a balance between the two. One reason for such behaviour is when one has poor social skills. When this happens, you will feel your life is a total problem. This person withdraws from the world and becomes a narcissist. A neurotic lives symbolically, not biologically. The artist is the most neurotic of all. Everyone is neurotic to some extent. The artist is better than the neurotic because he can produce works that represent his symbolic view of the world. Some level of objective creativity is a must. The neurotic tends to criticize himself too much. The artist glorifies himself because he has the talent to do so. Talent is circumstantial. The author can understand why people like to work hard at their jobs as the alternative to that is natural desperation and madness. What can keep Man from going mad? In reality, people have all sorts of personalities. Is the average man one to be emulated? It seems like our Creator has no grand plans for Mankind. People are living an illusion. On what level of illusion does one live? Man needs a new reality. Cultural heroism is important for men. Cultural play tends to vary with society and history. Men needs other acts to find heroism and not just simply raising kids. He needs revolutions and wars. Modern man is left to his own resources. He has to justify himself. Science still can’t explain the soul. To Rank, psychology was a negative sort of ideology. Psychology tries to identify what’s wrong with a person when he is unhappy. However, sometimes the cause of happiness is because of one’s relationship with the world. Hence, psychology has limited understanding of humans. Psychology tends to focus on circumstantial guilt. Psychologists in the modern age now represent the new God. The Merger of Sin and Neurosis. Both Kierkegaard and Rank reached similar conclusions on psychoanalysis. They both had the ‘theology’ world-view. Man must translate his meaningfulness on a larger level. However, justifying your own heroism is bound to fail. Neurosis is a strive for self-achieved immortality. The cure for neurosis is to change your world-view. One needs to plunge into world experiences and then try to attain meaning from it. To Goethe, men didn’t know what proper experiences were. Religion needs to be supported by external and compelling activities, not just a belief in God. What is the best foolishness to live under? The best one is the one that provides the most dignity and freedom. Religion removes our responsibilities. We can make free decisions. We can rely on powers that support and do not oppose us. Religion also allows one to explore their individual heroic personality. Also, it gives hope because it is largely unknown. It relieves the absurdity of earthly life. To Rank, Christianity ranks as an ideal. Is there a cost for failure to reach transcendence? Can an individual affirm and accept himself from himself? A creative person is too full of himself and of the world. One needs to ask important questions like what world view? What powers? For what heroism?

Generally speaking, we call neurotic any life style that beings to constrict too much, that prevents free forward momentum, new choices, and growth that a person may want and need. – Ernest Becker

To live is to engage in experience at least partly on the terms of the experience itself. One has to stick his neck out in the action without any guarantees about satisfaction or safety. – Ernest Becker

In sin and neurosis man fetishizes himself on something narrow at hand and pretends that the whole meaning and miraculousness of creation is limited to that, that he can get his beatification from that. – Ernest Becker

A General View of Mental Illness. Humans fear isolated forms of human existence. Mental illness is very complex and varied. I will try to simplify the concepts for the layman. Is there even a general theory of mental illness? Mental illness is essentially denial of creatureliness. People who have depression are afraid of life. Fear of life leads to excessive fear of death. Depressed people fear to move and do anything. Do not live simply to meet the demands of others. Men do not have the power to rely on. People hunger for immortality in their own small family circle. Transference is the use of an object for self-perpetuation. If you cannot fight or flee from your problems, you will enter a state of depression. People who are depressed want others to care for him and take care of him. There is a sense of guilt in this. Failure to have a useful social role can lead to depression. Menopause reawakens the horrors of our body. Nature is the real ‘castrator’. Once both the bodily and the cultural projects fail, one is a failure. Some form of heroism is needed. One cannot simply rely on object-embeddedness. One has to be a hero in some way. Schizophrenia is another sort of mental illness. He is a realist. He fears life and its demands and lives in mistrust of himself. We have a good theory of what schizophrenia is about. The symbolic and bodily self are completely disintegrated. He is not securely rooted in his body. As a result, he needs to hyper-magnify his world to achieve transcendence. Hence, he seems very contrived. He is open to his own anxieties. His body, to him, is a mass of stench and decay and will betray him. A normal person will use his body with confidence. He doesn’t have an ego response. Perversions are not marginal. Freud was interested in studying about perversions. To him, the fetish is a substitute of a woman. Man can find dualism strange and cannot accept impermanence of the body. Children are shamed of their bodies when they soil themselves. Death and decay are themes of obsession. Children are indeed bothered by their bodies. This is especially so if he has seen traumatic things. Their kids will grow up weaker in their body confidence. Low-esteem is a serious problem too. Wanting to sexualize is an expression of individualism. This also explains fetishism. Our body is standard, but the self is personalized. How can one reconcile this? Perversions are in essence a striving for freedom. Freud thought that the fetish object represented the mother’s ‘penis’. People with fetishism treat their bodies with a halo, like a personal thing. Some people have fetishes with shoes. Feet are ugly while shoes are beautiful. Fetishes can be charms too. Clothing has massive impact on people. Perversions are a form of private religion. Sadism and masochism might seem natural. When you rape someone, you show you can manipulate and dominate another person. It provides intensity in the place of emptiness. Masochism is a way of taking pain and transmuting them into pleasure. Rank thought that Mankind could not get rid of thoughts of masochism and sadism. Mental illness are seen as failed heroics. They all have the power of courage.

All living organisms are condemned to perversity, to the narrowness of being mere fragments of a larger totality that overwhelms them, which they cannot understand or truly cope with – yet must still live and struggle in. – Ernest Becker

The more you shrink back from the difficulties and the darings of life, the more you naturally come to feel inept, the lower is your self-evaluation. It is ineluctable. – Ernest Becker

One must pay with life and consent daily to die, to give oneself up to the risks and dangers of the world, allow oneself to be engulfed and used up. Otherwise, one ends up as though dead in trying to avoid life and death. – Ernest Becker

If you can’t be a hero within a communal ideology, then you must be a nagging, whining failure in your family. – Ernest Becker

The body is definitely the hurdle for man, the decaying drag of the species on the inner freedom and purity of his self. – Ernest Becker

Retrospect and Conclusion: The Dilemmas of Heroism

Psychology and Religion: What is the Heroic Individual? We tend to follow other person’s ideas. We find idols in our lives. We try to convert our people to our idea. The artist tries to create his meaning and he must be sustained by them. Kierkegaard thought man had to live in faith and give meaning of life to his Creator. This is the knight of faith. One needs to find what is needed to live. Man cannot get rid of his nature. The enemy is repression, the denial of death. Men sets limits for himself because this a truly human existence. Therefore, our culture or superego sets such limits. Even if you can postpone death, people might still fear dying prematurely. What kind of Gods would people in a Utopia worship? There are certainly limits to psychotherapy. One cannot have it all his own way. One must draw back in some areas and pay the penalty in some form or another. Psychotherapy does have its uses. Psychology is useless, because it helps to cure weaknesses, but it does not promise immortality. Hence, that is why psychotherapy does have use. Psychology is not a new belief system. The author believes that the fusion of psychology and religion is logical. There are also limits to human nature. There is no way to transcend the human condition. Social movements are mere fancy. Is therapeutic revolution a viable concept? Utopian societies tend to deaden human sensitivity and deny humans of heroism. There are a lot of things about creation and life which we do not understand. All we can do is speak to the life force.

A creature who takes more of the world into himself and develops new forms of courage and endurance. – Ernest Becker

Whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. – Ernest Becker

Whatever is achieved must be achieved from within the subjective energies of creatures, without deadening, with the full exercise of passion, of vision, of pain, of fear, and of sorrow. – Ernest Becker


Nelson Mandela quotes 26 to 50

  1. ‘I kissed and held my wife for the first time in all these many years. It was a moment I had dreamed about a thousand times. It was as if I were still dreaming. I held her for what seemed like an eternity…It had been 21 years since I had even touched my wife’s hand.’
  2. ‘It was tremendously frustrating not to be able to touch my wife, to speak tenderly to her, to have a private moment together. We had to conduct our relationship at a distance under the eyes of people we despised (prison wardens).’
  3. ‘In order for a hunger strike to succeed, the outside world must learn of it. Otherwise, the prisoners will simply starve themselves to death and no one will know.’
  4. ‘I have always believed exercise is not only a key to physical health but to peace of mind. Exercise dissipates tension, and tension is the enemy of serenity. I found that I worked better and thought more clearly when I was in good physical condition. In prison, having an outlet for one’s frustrations was absolutely essential.’
  5. ‘It was absolutely riveting to watch the simple activities of people out in the world: old men sitting in the sun, women doing their shopping, people walking their dogs. It is precisely those mundane activities of daily life that one misses most in prison.’
  6. ‘In prison, one can only question and resist an order to a certain point, then one must succumb.’
  7. ‘A leader must also tend his garden, he, too plants seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the result. Like the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work, try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.’
  8. ‘I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.’
  9. ‘But the decades of oppression and brutality had another unintended effect, and that was that it produced men of extraordinary courage, wisdom, and generosity that their like may never be known again. Perhaps it requires such depth of oppression to create such heights of character.’
  10. ‘Nonviolent passive resistance is effective as long as your opposition adheres to the same rules as you do. But if peaceful protest is met with violence, its efficacy is at an end.’
  11. ‘In life, every man has twin obligations – obligations to his family, to his parents, to his wife and children; and he has an obligation to his people, his community and his country.’
  12. ‘A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness.’
  13. ‘It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones – and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals.’
  14. ‘It is from these comrades in the struggle that I learned the meaning of courage. Time and again, I have seen men and women risk and give their lives for an idea. I have seen men stand up to attacks and torture without breaking, showing a strength and resiliency that defies the imagination.’
  15. ‘When your life is the struggle (for freedom), as mine was, there is little room left for family. That has always been my greatest regret, and the most painful aspect of the choice I made.’
  16. ‘I was prepared to tell the judge that I was prepared to die secure in the knowledge that my death would be an inspiration to the cause for which I was giving my life. My death would not be in vain; if anything we might serve the cause greater in death as martyrs than we ever could in life.’
  17. An appeal (for a shorter sentence) would undermine the moral stance we had taken. We had from the first maintained that what we had done, we had done proudly, and for moral reasons. We were not now going to suggest otherwise in an appeal.’
  18. ‘If you want to continue living in poverty without clothes and food, then go and drink in the shebeens (shop selling alcohol without a licence). But if you want better things, you must work hard. We cannot do it all for you; you must do it yourselves.’
  19. ‘The state was responsible for the violence and that is always the oppressor, not the oppressed, who dictates the form of the struggle. If the oppressor uses violence, the oppressed have no alternative but to respond violently.
  20. ‘But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb…But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.’
  21. ‘Prison life is about routine: each day like the day like the one before; each week like the one before it, so that the months and years blend into each other. Anything that departs from this pattern upsets the authorities, for routine is the sign of a well-run prison.’
  22. ‘The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’
  23. ‘Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death.’
  24. ‘Music is a great blessing. It has the power to elevate and liberate us. It sets people free to dream. It can unite us to sing with one voice. Such is the value of music.’
  25. ‘It was this desire for the freedom of my people to live their lives with dignity and self-respect that animated my life, that transformed a frightened young man into a bold one, that drove a law-abiding attorney to become a criminal, that turned a family-loving husband into a man without a home, that forced a life-loving man to live like a monk.’


Nelson Mandela quotes 1 to 25

  1. In love, unlike politics, caution is not usually a virtue. I was neither confident enough to think I might succeed nor secure enough to bear the sense of failure if I did not. – Nelson Mandela (recalling his younger days when he didn’t dare to confess to a girl that he liked)
  2. Many people will appear to befriend you when you are wealthy, but precious few will do the same when you are poor. If wealth is a magnet, poverty is a repellent. Yet, poverty often brings out the true generosity in others.
  3. I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments, produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.
  4. But now the white man had felt the power of my punches and I could walk upright like a man, and look everyone in the eye with the dignity that comes from not having succumbed to oppression and fear. I had come of age as a freedom fighter.
  5. This was a significant achievement; for fear of prison is a tremendous hindrance to a liberation struggle. From the defiance campaign onward, going to prison became a badge of honor among Africans.
  6. After one has been to prison, it is the small things that one appreciates: being able to take a walk whenever one wants, going into a shop and buying a newspaper, speaking or choosing to remain silent. The simple act of being able to control one’s actions.
  7. Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, colour and wealth are irrelevant. When you are circling your opponent, probing his strengths and weaknesses, you are not thinking about his colour or social status.
  8. When you question a man’s integrity, you can expect a fight.
  9. For my own part I have made my choice. I will not leave South Africa, nor will I surrender. Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.
  10. It is not pleasant to be arrested in front of one’s children, even though one knows that what one is doing is right. But children do not comprehend the complexity of the situation; they simply see their father being taken away by the white authorities without an explanation.
  11. Prison not only robs you of your freedom, it attempts to take away your identity. As a freedom fighter and as a man, one must fight against the prison’s attempt to rob one of these qualities.
  12. After a time in solitary, I relished the company even of the insects in my cell, and found myself on the verge of initiating conversations with a cockroach…Nothing is more dehumanizing than the absence of human companionship.
  13. This was one of the state’s most barbarous techniques of applying pressure: imprisoning the wives and children of freedom fighters. Many men in prison were able to handle anything the authorities did to them, but the thought of the state doing the same thing to their families was almost impossible to bear.
  14. One can be in extraordinarily intimate circumstances with someone for months, and then never see the person again. It is dehumanizing, for it forces one to adapt by becoming more self-contained and insulated.
  15. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.
  16. A leader, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that they all along they are being directed from behind.
  17. I was prepared for the death penalty. To be truly prepared for something, one must actually expect it. One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen.
  18. Men, I think, are not capable of doing nothing, of saying nothing, of not reacting to injustice, of not protesting against oppression, of not striving for the good society and the good life in the ways they see it.
  19. The human body has an enormous capacity for adjusting to trying circumstances. I have found that one can bear the unbearable if one can keep one’s spirits strong even when one’s body is being tested. Strong convictions are the secret of surviving deprivation; your spirit can be full even when your stomach is empty.
  20. When letters did arrive, they were cherished. A letter was like the summer rain that could make even the desert bloom.
  21. Change is gradual and incremental, and when one lives in the midst of one’s family, one rarely notices differences in them. But when one doesn’t see one’s family for many years at a time, the transformation can be striking.
  22. Prison was a kind of crucible that tested a man’s character. Some men, under the pressure of incarceration, showed mettle, while others revealed themselves as less than what they had appeared to be.
  23. There is nothing so encouraging in prison as learning that the people outside are supporting the cause for which you are inside.
  24. It was a useful reminder that all men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency, and that if their heart is touched, they are capable of changing.
  25. I knew that accidents (killing of innocent civilians) were the inevitable consequence of the decision to embark on a military struggle. Human fallibility is always a part of war, and the price of it is always high.


Anthem by Ayn Rand

It is a sin to not think like others. It is an offence to think alone. You need the permission of the Council of Vocations before you can write. There is no established punishment for it yet. Writing down your thoughts is a crime. Our name is Equality 7-2521 and we all wear an iron bracelet. We are 21 years ago and 6 feet tall. All men must be alike. We have to repeat these words ‘We are one in all and all in one. There are no men but only the great WE. One, indivisible and forever.’ These words were established a lot time ago. No one can recall what happened before the Great ReBirth. Everything the World Council said was the whole true. There is no free will except of the will of all men together. Our group of men are different from the rest as we have transgressed. We often fought with our brothers since young. We were all prisoners now. It was evil to be superior by our fellow brothers. We could not forget the past or pretend not to know something we already knew. After the Home of the Students, the Council of Vocations would prescribe what we should do. Preferring something over another was a form of Transgression. The Council of Scholars claimed to know everything. We were fascinated by science and how things work. Many of us dreamt to work in the Council of Scholars. If you were assigned to be a Leader, you could study more. Our life mandate was to be a street sweeper. Life was tough and with long hours. We often were made to sing the Hymn of Brotherhood, Equality and Collective Spirit. Once men turn 40, they are sent to the Home of the Useless, where the State cares for them. We loved a group called International 4-8818 and that was a transgression. Later, in a field, we pushed aside an iron bar and saw an iron grill over a black hole. We opened the grill and decided to explore despite knowing that it was an offence. It was a high tech tunnel. The place was left from the unmentionable times. We wanted to keep this a secret at all cost and protect it with our lives. The International group didn’t want to betray us. We started stealing valuable items and bringing it to the tunnel. For 3 hours each night, we would study in the tunnel. This has been going on for more than 2 years. We are doing this because we love exploring. We do not feel remorse or fear in our hearts whatsoever. Our strange ‘evil’ ways seem peaceful indeed.

We were not happy in those years in the Home of the Students. It was not that the learning was too hard for us. It was that the learning was too easy. This is a great sin, to be born with a head which is too quick. – The Narrator

We are forbidden to speak about women. There is a female group known as Liberty 5-3000. They were in charge of planting seeds in a field. After many instances, they gradually grew warmer towards us. Only speaking to other groups in Social Meetings were acceptable. It is an offence to think of other men outside your group. It was not an offence to think of women in the City Palace of Mating. There would be a Council of Eugenics who would assign a female to each man. Women will never see their children and the kids won’t know who their parents are. The female group was known to us as the Golden One. Finally we spoke to their group. They were a group of 17 year olds. We were reprimanded for singing for no reason. It is forbidden not to happy. However, our brothers look at us with fear in their eyes. Our brothers have the ultimate say. There are groups of people who are not happy all the time. Legend has it that those who enter the Uncharted Forest do not come out alive. Many of the important secrets were lost. You will be sentenced to death if you mention the Unspeakable Word. One man was burned in public for saying it. At that moment of being burnt, the Saint was still smiling. This was very intriguing to us. We would not guess the word before that guy perished. What is the Unspeakable Word?

Indeed you are happy. How else can men be when they live for their brothers? – Home Council

Men are free and the earth belongs to them; and all things on earth belong to all men; and the will of all men together is good for all; and so all men must be happy. – The Narrator

The Council of Scholars has said that we all know the things which exist and therefore all the things which are not known by all do not exist. – The Narrator

We will uncover secrets because we seek them. We were slowly discovering new secrets of life. It is important to keep learning, even though we can’t share it with anyone.

We saw the Golden One by the hedge. They called us ‘the Unconquered’. In return, we termed them ‘Our Dearest One’. Now, they brought water to us.

We completed building a strange thing. We made a wire glow. It was an electric current running through a wire. It was now possible to light the city with metal and wires. The plan was to present the idea to the World Council of Scholars. We felt the wire being part of body as well.

Now, we had been caught by the government. We were lashed in the Palace of Corrective Detention. We lost count of the blows. We refused to tell the judge where we went after we were late for duty. Now, we were placed in a prison cell. It would be the Council of Scholars meeting tomorrow and we had to escape somehow. Thankfully it was easy to escape. We went to hide in the tunnel and prepare for the next day.

It is dark in the forest. Finally we were in the hall of the World Council of Scholars. The scholars despised us when we revealed we were Street Sweepers. We demonstrated to them the power of light. The men were afraid. Many of the scholars were jealous and ordered us to be lashed for trying to show that we were superior to them. We were disappointed by such a reply. Lone thinkers had no place in society. Our box would bring ruin to the Department of Candles. The scholars wanted our box to be destroyed. We leapt out of the place, through glass. We simply ran away. Unknowingly, we ended up in the Uncharted Forest. We could no longer go back to the town and would rather prefer solitude. The golden one was not with us and we missed her.

What is not thought by all men cannot be true…What is not done collectively cannot be good. – Collective 0-0009

The forest was a mystery and yet held such charm for us. We were free to do whatever we wished. We started to explore the forest and appreciate nature. For food, we learnt how to cook and eat birds. The stream was a thing of sheer beauty.

The Golden One came to visit us now. We learnt from them that they followed us. They wished to share our damnation wherever we went. It was clear that they wanted to stick with us now. We hugged one another and experienced true joy. This new life felt so clear and simple but yet brought immense joy. We were weary when we toiled for our brothers. There seemed to be an error in which the brothers taught. What was it? We were closer to the Unspeakable Word, but could not pinpoint what it was. The Golden One confessed that they loved us.

We started scaling small mountains. We came upon a house. It was of a very modern design. This was a house from the Unmentionable Times. Undaunted, we explored the interior. It was odd that the house could only fit 12 people. We wondered about the men from the Unmentionable Times. We found scripts which we didn’t manage to comprehend fully. This was our house.

What is this secret our heart has understood and yet will not reveal to us, although it seems to beat as if it were endeavoring to tell it? – The Narrator

I am. I think. I will. I am the meaning of the things. I discovered self-will. I am not a servant for men’s needs. Honor must be earned. Do not keep using the word ‘We’. I finally discovered the usage of the word ‘I’. This was the forbidden word.

It is my mind which thinks, and the judgment of my mind is the only searchlight that can find the truth. It is my will which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I must respect. – The Narrator

I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on Earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose. – The Narrator

I guard my treasures: my thought, my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom. – The Narrator

Nothing can kill the spirit of man. I realized we all needed names so that we can be addressed. I shall be Prometheus and the Golden One shall be named Gaea. My aim would be to build up knowledge and then contribute it to future generations. I would learn how to build electricity again. If possible, when my fortress is built, I will call forth those who had been ostracized by the brothers to join me. I would rewrite the new history of Man. Man needed to free himself from his brothers. This was freedom. The problem was that men worshiped ‘We’. The spirit of Man will always awaken. For freedom, rights. For life and for honor. I will never let this word die ‘EGO’.


Tao Te Ching (道德经) by Lao Tzu

It consists of 81 short poems in traditional Chinese. It is known as ‘The Book of the Way’. It is a book of deep wisdom on the art of living. From his teachings, Lao Tzu did care about society. Non-action is the purest and most effective form of action. The doer can vanish completely from the deed. He emphasises a lot on softness. Give up to Tao and be compassionate. The more solitary you are, the more compassionate you can build and better you can distinguish good from evil. It is a deeply moral teaching. Evil isn’t a force, but simply seen as something opaque. The author has interacted with the actual Zen masters. The author attempts to translate his mind.

Only the unnameable is eternally real. Free yourself from desire. Mystery and manifestations arise from darkness.

Opposites support each other, for instance, difficult and easy. The key is let things come and go. Do not possess and expect. Then your work will last forever.

When people see things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.  – Lao Tzu

Do not do things excessively. Weaken your ambition and toughen your resolve. Practice the art of non-doing. Lose yourself.

Tao is a well that can never be used up and is filled with infinite possibilities.

Tao is not biased and welcomes everyone. Use it, but do not talk of it, in order to understand it better.

Tao is always present inside you and you can use it any way you wish.

It is infinite because it has no desires and eternal because it has never been born, and thus cannot die. Detach yourself.

Be contented. Be yourself and don’t compare or compete with others. Others will start to respect you.

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. – Lao Tzu

Do your work and take a step back.

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will be blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. – Lao Tzu

Be original. Keep supple. Cleanse your vision. Love others without your imposing your views. Deal with only the vital matters. Step back from your own mind.

Work with being, but non-being is what we use.

Trust your inner vision. Keep your heart open.

Success is as dangerous as failure as your position is precarious. Keep your feet grounded. Hope and fear are just thoughts of our mind.

Realize where you come from and that is the key to wisdom.

The master welcomes everything and is incredibly patient. Wait for the situation to change.

Empty your mind of everything. Understand yourself. Everything is serene at the source.

There is no need to talk as a master. Act by example instead. Trust your people.

Filial piety emerges when there is no peace in the family. Patriotism is born when the country is in chaos.

Throw away holiness and wisdom, morality and justice, industry and profit, and people will do fine.

Do not want what others want. I am expressionless. I possess nothing and drift around. I am different from the others.

Tao doesn’t cling to ideas. Let the light in. I see the Tao in myself.

Live by Tao, and you can be true to yourself.

Because the Master doesn’t display himself, people can see the light. Because he has nothing to prove, people can trust his words. Because he doesn’t know who he is, people recognize themselves in him. Because he has no goal in mind, everything he does succeeds. – Lao Tzu

Open yourself completely to experiences and be honest with them and how they make you feel.

Just do your job and let it go.

The beginning of the Universe can be known as Tao. It flows through everything. Man follows the Earth, Earth follows the Universe. The Universe follows Tao. Tao follows itself.

Do not allow yourself to be blown to and fro. Stay firm.

Embody the light.

A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants. A good scientist has freed himself of concepts and keeps his mind open to what is. – Lao Tzu

Be a pattern for the world. Accept the world as it is.

You can’t improve the world. See things as they are. Stand in the centre of the circle.

There is a time for being ahead, a time for being behind; a time for being in motion, a time for being at rest; a time for being vigorous, a time for being exhausted; a time for being safe, a time for being in danger. – Lao Tzu

Do not dominate events and understand that the Universe is out of control. Because he accepts himself, the whole world accepts him.

Peace is the highest value. How can you be content once peace is shattered? Rejoice in victory. Do not sadistic.

Know when institutions should stop and understand that names are provisional.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich. If you stay in the centre and embrace death with your whole heart, you will endure forever. – Lao Tzu

Be humble and do not be aware that you’re great.

When you grasp Tao, you will have peace in your heart. When you look for it, there’s nothing to see.

Have subtle perception of the way things are. Let your workings be a mystery, just show people the result.

Centre yourself in Tao and the world will be transformed. Have no desire and peace will be abounded.

Don’t try to be powerful. The Master has no will of his own. He only dwells in reality.

The Master does nothing, yet he leaves nothing undone. The ordinary man is always doing things, yet many more are left to be done. – Lao Tzu

View the world with compassion. Understand the whole.

Return and yield. All things are born of being. Being is born of non-being.

It is seemingly difficult to locate Tao. However, it does complete everything.

Male and female combination leads to harmony. Embrace your loneliness and be at peace with the Universe.

Non-action has huge value in this world. Teach with words is the Master’s way.

If you look to others for fulfilment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. – Lao Tzu

Allow things to happen and let Tao speak for itself.

See through your fears. Fear is an illusion. Do not prepare to defend yourself. Have no enemies.

The Master arrives without leaving. The more you know, the less you understand.

In Tao, things are dropped and non-action is practised. Let things go along by nature’s flow.

In Tao, it trusts everyone. Everyone is treated and taken care by Tao like children.

Give yourself up to the moment. Hold nothing back. Be ready for death.

Be spontaneous. Tao comforts and nourishes everyone.

If you close your mind in judgments and traffic with desires, your heart will be troubled. If you keep your mind from judging and aren’t led by the senses, your heart will find peace. – Lao Tzu

When you are extravagant or greedy, you are not being in line with Tao.

Look inside yourself and if you believe in Tao, you will prosper much.

Never expect anything and you won’t be disappointed. Thus, your spirit will never grow old.

Be like the Tao and give yourself up continually.

Stop trying to control. The more rules you have, the larger it will backfire. Let go of religion, economics and the law.

Do not impose your will, but still be pointed in a certain direction.

Be a moderate man and make sure of whatever that comes your way. Let go and care for others.

Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear itself.

Do not meddle in the affairs of others and see those who point out your faults as being very benevolent.

Offer to teach your new leader, Tao. Tao will forgive your mistakes.

Confront the difficult while it is easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small steps.

Nip danger in the bud and prevent it from escalating. Remain calm as a Master.

By non-knowing, you will not be stubborn and become more open to experiences.

If you want to lead, you must know how to follow. Place yourself below others. Do not compete with anyone.

I only teach 3 things: simplicity, patience and compassion. Be compassionate towards yourself.

The best businessmen only compete in the business of play. Follow the will of others.

Observe before moving. Do not underestimate your enemy. Victory will go to the one that yields first.

If you want to know Tao, look inside your heart.

The Master is a physician who heals herself of everything. She is whole again.

The Master steps back so that people won’t be confused. They have nothing to learn.

Tao doesn’t let a thing slip and overcomes without competing. It is constantly at ease.

All things change. Don’t cling on to one too tightly. The future can’t be controlled. Go with the flow.

Trust the common folks and leave them alone.

Whoever is stiff and inflexible is a discipline of death. Be soft and yielding.

The master can keep giving without fear.

Remain serene even when upset. Do not allow evil to enter your heart. Life is paradoxical.

Treat failure as an opportunity. Correct the mistakes yourself and do not expect things from others.

A master doesn’t need to travel. He is content at home and takes delight in everyday activities.

Wise men don’t have to prove anything. Do not dominate or force others.

The master has no possessions. The more he does for others, the happier he is. The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is. – Lao Tzu


How to Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric

The thought once occurred to me that if one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment, one at which the most fearsome murderer would tremble, shrinking from it in advance, all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Rob Archer had a good job as a management consultant but didn’t like what he was doing and hated the job because he couldn’t master it well. He worked long hours for 10 years. He felt guilty to be seeking stuff like meaning and couldn’t bear the uncertainty of starting fresh again. Sameera Khan was a lawyer and had a dream job. Yet she felt empty and meaningless. ‘What to do if you hate your career.’ Iain King had a topsy turvy career but eventually made it. He didn’t feel that he wanted to be a civil servant. He didn’t feel he was the conventional kind of guy. Fulfillment in a job is a modern invention. Most people usually struggle with subsistence and don’t care about their work. We want to trade up money to meaning. People expect more than a paycheck. Most people need trial and error to figure it out. A large percentage of the workforce are unhappy with their jobs. The first few is to get our expectations under control. In the past, people have been through hardship. ‘Grin and bear it’ attitude. That attitude is more of one of acceptance. The other view is to find work that is more life-enhancing. We should seek work that will allow us to express who we are. People are more affluent now and we have more choices in our lives. Work can be life-enhancing and broaden our horizons. What are the core elements of a fulfilling career? They are three ingredients: 1) meaning; 2) flow; and 3) freedom. First, learn to understand the fear that is associated with leaving your old job. Next, is to identify multiple selves and not limit your career choice. Act first, reflect later. The author has performed much research in this area. Why is it so difficult to choose a career path?

The yearning for a fulfilling career may have begun to permeate our expectations, but is it really possible to find a job in which we can thrive and feel fully alive? Is it not a utopian ideal reserved for the privileged few who can afford fancy education, who have the financial means to risk opening a baby-yoga café, or who have the social connections required to win the coveted prize of a job they love? – Roman Krznaric

But when somebody asks us the deadening question “What do you do?”, let us set our sights on giving an enlivening answer, which makes us feel that we are doing something truly worthwhile with our lives, rather than wasting away the years in a career that will leave the bitter taste of regret in our mouths. – Roman Krznaric

Freedom is tough when you have choices and you can’t decide what you want. Why is it so difficult to decide what path to embark on? Humans are not prepared to deal with too much choice. We need to identify the cause for such confusion. Benjamin Franklin had to follow what his parents decided for him early on. Even Karl Marx believed in the free seller of worker-power for each worker. At that time, jobs were mainly hard labour. A growing number of women entered the work force in the 1950s. Then, the problem of work-life balance existed. In the paradox of choice, people are not good at making decisions. Sometimes, we fear many the wrong decision and that causes us not to make a decision at all. The trick is to limit your options. The next is to lower your expectations. The education we have can also prevent us from pursuing more adventurous paths. That is why doctors rarely switch careers. Many young people at 18 do not know what they want in life. Sometimes, you don’t want your education to go to waste. There are sunk costs which you can’t ignore. People tend to regret the stuff they didn’t do although they wanted to. ‘If only I had…’ One way to decide is to go for personality tests. Frank Parsons believed career choice should be a scientific process and he performed head measurements on candidates. It then developed into IQ tests, personality tests etc. There have been many criticisms on the MBTI format. Personality tests do not predict one’s career success well. One would be better off trying career experiments instead.

Looking back now, it’s crazy. At 16 I wanted to be a lawyer. How on earth am I supposed to know that that is what I want to do for the rest of my life? I’m not going to be the same person I am at 16 as I am at 45. I’m going to have different values, opinions and motivations. – Sameera Khan

If there is anything worth fearing in the world, it is living in such a way that gives one cause for regret in the end. – A.C. Grayling

The 5 dimensions of meaning. They are earning money, achieving status, making a difference, following our passions and using our talents. The first two are extrinsic in nature and the last three are intrinsic. You must know where your priorities lie and what do you value more. Money alone will not be sufficient. Money is the oldest motivator in the business. Money and happiness are not closely linked. We may end up on the hedonic treadmill and can’t get out of it. People who lack security in their lives may turn to material things. Social status is something that we want as well. We also like to compare our positions in relation to others. Status can boost self-esteem. We should not be too concerned about what others think of us. Work should give you a sense of respect. It is important to feel respected. Work should allow you to make a difference. We all want to leave a mark. For example, one can dedicate his life to a greater cause. Work for a cause you deeply believe in. It is extremely frustrating if you can’t see any difference your work is making. There might be a conflict between making money and making a difference. Sometimes, going public might result in greater pressures for profit and lead to an erosion of company culture towards social responsibility. Cultivating talents and passions. The other way is to do what you’re good at. Match your greatest passion with work. Another dilemma is whether to specialize or to generalize. Specializing is good but the work can become repetitive and boring in nature. Another belief is that people can enjoy multiple careers. Leonardo da Vinci was successful when he worked on multiple careers at once. Another belief is to be a serial specialist. Imagine your many selves. Write down your map of choices. Imagine a parallel services. Write down your personal job advertisement and share it with others. Allow others to recommend jobs for you based on your underlying interests.

If you’re going to be good at anything, you’ve got to have tunnel vision. – Wayne Davies

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and play; his labour and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves other to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both. – Francois-Rene de Chateaubraind

We often lack the courage for changing jobs. Instead of plan and then take action, we should act now and then reflect later. Humans always fear failure. Why can’t we shake off uncertainty? Humans are extremely loss averse. How to have 30 jobs in one year? Someone tried to contact her friends and try to join them for a short period of a few days each time. There are 3 ways to do it: radical sabbatical; branching projects and conversational research. We can do work shadowing or volunteering or attend certain training courses to find out more. This is more progressive step towards your new career. The last way is simply to talk to people in the future career you want to be in. When we graduate, we only tend of taking the traditional paths. Shift your peer group and talk to different people. Conversational research is effective because it will allow you to connect with people better. You have to choose one of the 3. What gave you the best flow experience? We experience it when we are engaged in something. It usually applies to challenging tasks, but not impossibly difficult tasks. Sometimes, you need not change a career, but you can ask for more challenging tasks. However, this doesn’t apply to most jobs. You can also learn to create a flow diary. Flow and meaning are very important together.

The more jobs I try, the more I realize it’s not a rational process of listing criteria and finding a job that matches them. It’s a bit like dating. When I was single I had a mental list of qualities I thought my boyfriend should have. But some guys who met all the criteria on my list did nothing for me. And at one point you find someone who doesn’t meet half your checklist but blows you away…So maybe it’s not about thinking and planning, but about doing lots of job dating, trying things out until you feel a spark. – Laura van Bouchout

Then indecision brings its own delays, And days are lost lamenting over lost days. Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic to it. – Goethe

I don’t want to join the rat race. Not be enslaved by machines, bureaucracies, boredom and ugliness. I don’t want to be a moron, robot, commuter. I don’t want to become a fragment of a person. I want to do my own thing. I want to live (relatively) simply. I want to deal with people, not masks. People matter. Nature matters. Beauty matters. Wholeness matters. I want to be able to care. – E.F. Schumacher

Most people can relate to the quote above. Some people work long hours and hate listening to their boss. Should you try to be self-employed? Security and freedom is a balance that might be maintained. Many of the social movements have been based on freedom. Autonomy is very important to work. In a café, you can have more autonomy. One can try to be your own boss. For Ward, his heroes are those who have started their own business. It is possible to work in a large organization if you can set yourself targets. Self-employment is great because you know you can make a difference to others. Freedom is sweet and you won’t want to turn back. Invent your own job. Shape the way life to be. Wean yourself off the work ethic. Modern people work too hard and some believe that working hard will bring you closer to God. Instead of a fulfilling job, you might want a fulfilling life instead. Leisure activities can expand our human potential. There are predictions that people would only work 4 hours a day. Some people hold a day job to pursue their other ambitions in the evening. Thoreau and Dominguez adjusted their lifestyle to live frugally. Let to track your monthly expenses. People like to aim to ‘have it all’, both a family and a career. Think of it as society’s dilemma. The woman has to bear most of the load. The men ought to do their part to help out with the family. Men can also consider taking a break from work to take care of the kids. Having it all does not mean you must have it all at once. Take a long term view. Who knows? You may like another career after hanging around with your kids too much.

So many people live with unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. – Chris McCandless

When your income goes down from working less or taking a more fulfilling job, as a general rule your daily living expenses – on things like food, clothing and entertainment – will naturally contract to fit your new financial circumstances, and yet you will not feel any worse off. In fact, it is quite likely that you will feel life is better than ever, since you will be luxuriating in an abundance of that most precious commodity, time. – Roman Krznaric

The prize of soulful work. Find work that is soulful in nature. The three ingredients are: meaning, flow and freedom. Marie Curie did talk about the meaning of life. A vocation is not something we find, it’s something we grow into. A vocation should drive you to get up every morning. One must have a clear goal and purpose. We should all be struggling for a goal in life. Status and money mattered little to Marie Curie and she absolutely loved to work. Use your intellectual talents to achieve something. A vocation does not result from an epiphany. Some people would have done their research but will still hesitant to pursue a new career. Stop thinking and just do it. You can try writing your own obituary. Life is about taking risks and it is to be lived with passion.

Life is not easy for all of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained. – Marie Curie

Good books to explore: The Age of Fulfillment; Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Evolution of Work by Richard Donkin; Affluenza by Oliver James; The Corrosion of Character by Richard Sennett; In Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra; Anarchy in Action by Colin Ward; Screw Work, Let’s Play by John Williams; In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell.


How to be Alone by Sara Maitland

It is extremely easy to be alone. But is it easy to enjoy solitude? You cannot understand how people can take vacations alone. The conversations around you make it difficult to concentrate. You conclude that being in a bad relationship with someone is better than being alone. You want to explore nature. You feel that if you have not lived with yourself alone, you have not fully lived.. The author lives in a very secluded area with very low population density. She became fascinated with silence as it was a thing of beauty. Silence can improve your sensory awareness. Is it silence that is causing the benefits or is it from being alone? Natural noises can still be considered part of silence. You can be both or be one and not the other. Most people have a social and psychological problem towards solitude. The author likes being alone.

Society values individualism but not being alone. It is very strange. Being alone is being associated with sociopaths. It could indicate a lack of social skills. ‘Why don’t you have a partner?’ My grandma thought that living alone and enjoying it was being selfish to others. There are different extremes of being alone and the length of time matters. Even if you watch tv and read books, they are all produced by people. How much solitude will it take for you to be bad or mad? Solitude may be unnatural because people tended to be in herds before. Many psychologists confirm that people are happier when they are in good relationships. Solitude is more dangerous because no one will save you when you’re in trouble. Some more absurd arguments are that solitude is self-indulgent and escapist in nature, it is antisocial and is a form of evading social responsibility. The mass media makes money out of fear. The word ‘loner’ was coined and has many negative connotations. Greta Garbo was a famous loner who was successful.

Fear is the reason why many don’t want to be alone. The author feels that the values of Christianity and classical civilization do not really fit. In the past, societies thrived when they had a cohesive, patriotic culture. The rich then could only really work for the government. People were judged back then on whether they could serve the state nobly. Even showering was a social activity. This was the Greek and the Roman era. Christianity was more about one’s relationship with God and holiness, humility, obedience etc. Since Rome fell in 410AD, society has been troubled by these two conflicting ideals. The eighteenth century or the Age of Enlightenment was particularly conflicting for mankind. Later on, the Romantic movement was more about being alone and emotion triumphed over intellect. Despite this, collective movement in the righting of human rights etc was rising. In addition, sexual and emotional satisfaction was becoming increasing common. Even today, it is still a fragile battle.

Everyone is at risk of solitude. It is not wise to live in constant fear and therefore, we need a change in attitude. It will not do much good to label someone as miserable, selfish etc. Online social relationships are also not ‘true and intimate’ relationships. However, social media has benefits if it can connect you to like-minded people. Our attitude should be to see the positives of being alone.

Robin Dunbar argues that there is a neurological limit to the number of people that most human brains have a capacity to perceive as fully developed, complex individuals. Dunbar fixes the number at 150. – Sara Maitland

Change your attitude. You can be around people but still live alone. Scapegoating is a feeling of fear. Many people nowadays fear losing touch of the world when they lose their mobile phones. A way of overcoming phobia is to experience solitude for low doses at a start. Who knows? You may realize that you actually like it after all. Now, the author realizes that she finds it joyful. Most of us grew in a social environment and it is normal to feel a little afraid. There is no evidence that solitude can lead to decline in physical or mental health. Research in this area has been lacking. Are there effects of solitude on health? There are cases of people never being to recover after a prolonged period of solitude. The key is that the individual must have chosen solitude. Solitary confinement is completely different and cannot be compared.

Do something alone. Solitude is not a ‘new’ sort of time. Sometimes, we socialize too much in the day and need some peace. Reading is one of the most obvious habits. We do seem to have a lot of leisure time. However, in the past, people had a lot more. Nowadays, we own a lot more but need to spend more time taking care of them. We become leisure-poor. Perhaps you might want to reconsider spending some time alone during your leisure time. Walking alone can be very joyful and you learn to experience your environment around you more.

Running alone can be a meditative experience where you get to really think and concentrate or completely clear your mind and zone out… You have to practice letting go of the inner chatter that can get in the way of what you want to accomplish and that’s something you have to do on your own. – Cindra Kamphoff

Explore Reverie. A child has the ability to enjoy solitude. However, along the way, we were brought up in an environment with too much stimulation. Freud decided to enter a state known as ‘reverie’, which means to day dream actively. Then he will document his experiences in notebooks. Recall moments of joy being alone. This is one of the ways to enjoy solitude.

Look at Nature. In early religion, humans should form social units. Reproduction was the key to our survival. Primates are 98% similar to us and they are often seen in a pack. Humans, in the past, also hunted collectively. While all the above is true, humans can also spend time alone. Gorillas forage and sleep alone. Research has also reviewed that there is greater success when people hunt alone. Solitude is something that can be a part of our lives.

Learn Something by Heart. Being knowledgeable enhances creativity. Solitude is an aid to creativity. Being with others distracts you from your real core. Rote learning is now frowned upon. However, the fact is that rote learning is very powerful and can be internalized. We can access this knowledge when we are alone. If you access your memory bank, you will feel better during solitude. Examples could be trying to write poetry etc.

Going Solo. Circumnavigation has been lauded even if you do it alone. Many find it romantic and fascinating. It is easier to make it an adventure rather than just staying at home. You will be less regarded as being crazy if you do an adventure alone. However, you need to be well prepared mentally and physically. You will be able to experience something to the fullest. It brings out the free individual in you. The Scotland north of the Highlands is a place where is very remote. Push your own boundaries. Know yourself and achieve a sense of achievement. Learn to push boundaries. Solo travel will broaden your mind.

Train the Children. Solitude is a learned skill. We do not protect children if you do not let them experience solitude. Solitude can also help to build resilience once in a while. One can look at the child without talking or engaging him/her. Let your child play alone in the woods. Read them children’s stories. A little boredom won’t do them much harm. Do not provide them with a mobile phone unless necessary. Only interrupt them when you have a good reason to. You can never truly understand your child if you have never let him experience solitude.

Respect Difference. There are two broad personality traits, extroverts and introverts. They react differently to different stimuli. Some researchers believe that happiness is a combination of the 3 factors: self-esteem, optimism and extroversion. Culture of personality vs culture of character. It is normal for people to like different levels of solitude.

The Joys of Solitude. The broad 5 categories of benefits are as follows: (1) A deeper consciousness to oneself; (2) A deeper attunement to nature; (3) A deeper relationship with the transcendent; (4) Increased creativity; (5) An increased sense of freedom

Consciousness of the Self. In the desert, you can find yourself.

All men need enough solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally. When that inner voice is not heard, when he cannot attain to the spiritual peace which comes from being perfectly at one with his true self, his life is always miserable and exhausting… If a man is constantly exiled from his own home, locked out of his own solitude, he ceases to be a true person. – Thomas Merton

Attunement to Nature. Solitude provides clear undistracted perception and fusion between oneself and nature. Nature is shy and you have to go quietly. Being alone allows you to experience more. No one is there to challenge you. You will feel connected with the moment. It doesn’t happen when you’re with others.

Relationship with the Transcendent. It might be God. Buddhists also used silence as a vehicle of transcendence. All of the famous religious figures spent a lot of time in solitude. There are tribes which celebrate the uniqueness of the individual. Rites of passage can be found almost everywhere.

Creativity. Great art requires a certain degree of solitude. Many famous authors like Rainer Maria Rilke and Franz Kafka also write alone. Virginia Woolf argues that not many women were writers in the past because they lacked solitude. Heisenberg contracted a fever and he isolated himself before discovering the Uncertainty Principle for quantum mechanics.

Freedom. There are two types of freedom. The first is the freedom from and the other one is the freedom to. The one the author is referring to find out what you want and then go do it. To achieve this, you need to have good self-awareness. In general, people like to conform to the group they are in. Being creative requires a sort of personal freedom and reduced inhibition. Those who do not have any opinion of stuff is not a full individual.

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement. – Alice Koller