FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving is a time for family, food and joy, but unfortunately it can also be a source of health-impacting stress and anxiety for many. Between the influx of visitors, football games on the television and the necessary shopping, cooking and cleaning up, there can be far too little time devoted to reflective conversation with friends and family. And once the feast is finished and the guests have left, there is precious little time for quiet contemplation when all forms of mass media are rabidly encouraging Americans to participate in the obscene corporate-driven “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sales craze. Go go go! Buy buy buy!

Perhaps we should be taking a different approach to the holidays.

In my book, The Seventeen Traditions about the wisdom my parents passed along to my siblings and me, I wrote a chapter about “the tradition of solitude.”

Here’s a relevant excerpt for the season:

Some years ago, we invited a family with two small children over for Thanksgiving dinner. The four-year-old boy spent the whole day running wild, jumping off the table, knocking over glasses of water, screeching at the top of his lungs, and generally making every effort possible to ruin the conversation and the meal. Today, most parents might ask: Was he suffering from attention deficit disorder? No, the parents were suffering—from an unwillingness to control their son’s behavior and lay down some markers. It’s a symptom of today’s sprawled economy that many children spend less time with adults, including their parents, than any previous generation in history. When they do have a few precious moments with adults, they often act out as if they’re desperately trying to make up for prolonged inattention.

Does any of this sound familiar? I expect many millions of Americans will be dealing with similar household chaos on Thanksgiving Day.

My mother believed that children should be able to exercise their minds, to think independently and be self-reliant.  Critical to this development is acknowledging the importance of solitude. Devoting time to oneself and one’s thoughts isn’t just important for developing youngsters, however. Many grown adults could benefit from a little “quiet space” to get to know themselves and the world better.

The tradition of solitude isn’t about sitting in a room and contemplating one’s navel. It’s about allowing one’s mind to rejuvenate, imagine and explore―and hopefully relieve itself from the stress and anxiety that inevitably come with the burdens of everyday life.   It’s an engine of renewal. This is particularly true around the holidays when expectations and obligations can mount.

Another excerpt:

True solitude can involve an infinite variety of experience: being alone with one’s imagination, one’s thoughts, dreams, one’s puzzles and books, one’s knitting or hobbies, from carving wood blocks, to building little radios or model airplanes or collecting colorful stamps from all over the world. Being alone can mean following the flight of a butterfly or a hummingbird or an industrious pollinating bee. It can mean gazing at the nighttime sky, full of those familiar constellations, and trying to identify them.

I recently filmed a video in my hometown of Winsted, Connecticut where I discussed my relationship with nature and the comforting solitude it provides.  Watch it here.  The holiday season seems like an appropriate time to share this video in the hopes that it inspires others to reflect on the quiet, memorable moments and places that matter most.  Consider turning off the television, putting away the smartphone, avoiding the marketplace invitations to shop and spend on “Black Friday” and seeking comfort in solitude.

Perhaps the joys of solitude can become a tradition that eclipses the crazy call to spend the day after Thanksgiving shopping instead of thinking.

I welcome others to share the quiet places where they experience the joys of solitude. Maybe by telling others about how we retreat to find our better humanity, we can encourage those among us still searching for this intrinsic solace.

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail