The Beauty of Solitude – From Abeokuta

The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates

Self-examination and solitude are priceless. Socrates thinks a life not spent in solitude is a waste, I agree. You may ask, how do I stay in solitude when I work in a very busy noisy market in Lagos? Hear Socrates and Marcus Aurelius on this:

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But when a man’s pulse is healthy and temperate, and when before going to sleep he has awakened his rational powers, and fed them on noble thoughts and enquiries, collecting himself in meditation; after having first indulged his appetites neither too much nor too little, but just enough to lay them to sleep, and prevent them and their enjoyments and pains from interfering with the higher principle—which he leaves in the solitude of pure abstraction, free to contemplate and aspire to the knowledge of the unknown, whether in past, present, or future: when again he has allayed the passionate element, if he has a quarrel against any one—I say, when, after pacifying the two irrational principles, he rouses up the third, which is reason, before he takes his rest, then, as you know, he attains truth most nearly, and is least likely to be the sport of fantastic and lawless visions.”

Excerpt From
The Republic

Basically, what these two great philosophers are telling us is that, you do not need to have a country villa or check in to a monastery to spend time with yourself. You can reflect on life and strategies where ever you find yourself. This brings me to one of the countless benefits of solitude and self examination; it ensures you never loose any battle or war again. Nelson Mandela was kept is “forced solitude” for 28 years! That was his enemies’ main mistake. No wonder Mandela dealt with things so superiorly. Hear him:

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Amazing stuff! Nelson Mandela after much solitude, never lost again!

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.”

Hebrews 11:32 – 38

The passage above describes great works by men who where in solitude!

“Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.” Sun Tzu (The Art of War)

Life is war, and what better way to face it than in solitude making plans? The matter of warfare is too important to be ignored by the good guys. To the good guys, I will say even in heaven there was war: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,” — Revelation 12:7

Because there is nothing proportionate between the armed and the unarmed; and it is not reasonable that he who is armed should yield obedience willingly to him who is unarmed, or that the unarmed man should be secure among armed servants. Because, there being in the one disdain and in the other suspicion, it is not possible for them to work well together. And therefore a prince who does not understand the art of war, over and above the other misfortunes already mentioned, cannot be respected by his soldiers, nor can he rely on them. He ought never, therefore, to have out of his thoughts this subject of war, and in peace he should addict himself more to its exercise than in war; this he can do in two ways, the one by action, the other by study.”

Excerpt From
The Prince
Niccolò Machiavelli

I believe this concluding statement, was made because the author realized life is war: “ during his watch, a watchman has no sleep and no respite” Olusegun Obasanjo (My Watch). He had his share of “forced solitude” and definitely came out better!

Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher