The self is one of the earliest realities a person becomes aware of. Right from the time a child is born, he becomes aware of his own self. He senses and responds to his environment. He feels hunger, pain, and also the pleasurable sensations of being held and fed. In all of this, the child is not only aware of his own self but also about what seems good or bad to him. It is too early to formulate deep, detailed, and articulate descriptions of this, but the sensations don’t lie. From that early state of dependency and helplessness, the child is already building this sense. This is the most natural thing to happen. Anything otherwise is a distraction.
It may be that a person is born into an environment where the emphasis on society and on integration with the rest is highly emphasized. The idea of the self changes, but it does not altogether disappear, even with such a setup. In a highly developed society that offers the ability to integrate the exceptional as well as the ordinary individual, the self is still real.
The self grows
As touched upon briefly in the previous post, there is no self that is absolutely without any connections at all. Each self originates from and grows in connection with other selves. Now, a very real challenge that especially certain individuals are going to face is, to develop well and often times, despite of others.
There is a simple truth: The self grows through practice and through expression. Where there is a limitation upon either one, the self does not find its complete growth. Now consider, what possible hindrances exist to such growth. Any social systems that put the whole above the individual will offer such a hindrance – be it in religion, in law, in politics, in education, or elsewhere. But isn’t it true, this is what systems tend to do? They inhibit the individual self and do what is possible to retain the system.
For the self to grow, it is necessary that it not be deprived of its opportunity. This is where a society is so important. Where in a society there are the malices of jealousy, envy, and improper hate, the self that could have developed well moves into an improper direction. Means of injustice that are used to hinder proper growth can bring about the damage to the self. Where an individual self is truly strong and resilient, it may rise again and then retaliate to damage the society that hinders its growth. Do we not see this in families and in cultures that inhibit the growth of the self? Yes, society, though a necessity for humans, should not be allowed to become a cause for stagnation for the self. The self should grow.
Solitude for the self
The complaint is made in the first-world, Western society, of individuals becoming victims of loneliness. On the other hand, the restrictive, overly social societies have the opposite problem. A balance has not been found.
Solitude offers that balance. We have come to be in a situation where the interference and role of society cannot be downplayed. However, every society requires leadership. The leadership can come only when the self has grown and developed to take that position. Leaderless societies may be strong, but they cannot have direction. How could they, unless they are guided by those with the vision and foresight!
For the self to develop in solitude, it must come into contact with its deeper reality. This happens when that time is used to meditate, to reorganize, to be nourished, and then be prepared. All this preparation is for those two things: Practice and expression. Practice is a repeated expression.
Write (Right) in solitude
The time of solitude used for writing is in excellent use. This is the occupation that lets a man grow. It may even be said: before one expresses in actions, he may express in writing. If the writing grows to be strong and clear, the actions will be too. If the writing is confused and diluted, that is how the actions will be too.
Aside from writing, which is good for the mind and heart, a person should also take care of his health. He should do it in such a way that no pains or physical discomforts may become a distraction from his writing. To write from a troubled body is to transfer that discomfort into the writing. Of course, the result will reflect that poor eyesight, or the back pain, or the stiff legs, or the stiff neck.
Writing heals too. There is writing not to be shared. In that writing, one can let out all the venom that inhabits the body and mind. The act of letting go of that poison is therapeutic. Yes, to heal in the mind is to give a chance to the body to heal too.
Perhaps these quotes will come as refreshing reminders:
“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”
— Jean-Paul Sartre
“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”
— Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)