Learning the joys of simple solitude

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Learning the joys of simple solitude

The coldest literary work I have ever read was “To Build a Fire” by Jack London. A man who lives in Alaska, close to the North Pole, takes his dog and travels along the Yukon Trail to the camp where his colleagues are staying, and the story calmly tells the course of his death in detail. In a freezing climate of minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 75 degrees Fahrenheit), his hands and feet become paralyzed and he can no longer feel anything. After failing repeatedly to light a match and start a fire, he finally feels a sense of warmth and comfort come over him and falls to sleep, dying of hypothermia.

Physical suffering is not the only kind of cold. People who have no place to go or those who don’t go home for the holidays may feel just as cold. The people who work at hospitals, police stations, fire stations, railways and bus companies are no exception, as they have sacrificed their personal lives to help others. Some people choose to be alone on the holiday because they cannot handle the pressure of getting married, are jobless or have no money, and have been ostracized for their choice. Yet as the dissolution of the family structure accelerates and the definition of family has diversified, we cannot say that Koreans always spend the holidays with their families, so people who are alone on the holiday shouldn’t feel lonely or bitter.

Everyone, including myself, has felt the drudgery of routine. So when you are suddenly given free time, you can’t handle it. But is it really normal to become accustomed to being trapped in a network of people and feel uncomfortable alone? It shouldn’t be. There are many ways to enjoy the holidays alone. You could use the opportunity to enjoy some solitude.

Knowing the meaning of solitude is a gift. Nearly all misfortunes of humanity come from not really knowing how to be alone. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “self” is defined as “one’s consciousness of one’s own being or identity.” Solitude is a great reward and a precious gift for an individual and his consciousness.

English psychologist Anthony Storr claims that the ability to be alone is an important quality for a human being in his book, “Solitude: A Return to the Self.” What better way do we have than solitude to retract our negative thoughts about others and reflect on our inner self? Instead of complaining about being alone, try enjoying the opportunity to become submerged in your own thoughts and be yourself.

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Noh Jae-hyun
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