In the early pages of The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee’s notes are quoted thus:
Understanding oneself happens through a process of relationships and not through isolation.
While I see some truth in that, I think I also need a balance of relationships and isolation. Solitude is really what I mean: I need times of solitude. I never got why Superman needed a Fortress of Solitude, but something really clicked for me this morning: remember the part in the most recent “gritty reboot” movie, where Superman takes Lois way up into the stratosphere and they can hear all the voices of the world crying for help and whatnot? All of a sudden, the whole Fortress of Solitude thing really made sense: it’s a place he can go where he can enjoy the silence – regroup, consolidate, become one with himself again. Then he’s able to go back out and face the help-crying voices again.
I had a busy day yesterday, and some of that busy-ness overlapped the times during the day I routinely have to myself. I met a mentor for lunch; normally I sit by myself in the cafeteria and read while I eat. I had to run home to let Christine and the cat into my apartment because the door I had left open for the PSE&G guy was closed by said guy; I had just sat down to eat dinner and read at Whole Foods. So I had to take my dinner to my next appointment and wolf it down there. While I was eating, a friend of mine was leaning over into my face/food space, wondering what I was eating. She got too close and I snapped at her like a starved dog, “get the fuck away from my food, woman.” Whoa. I apologized quickly, but the damage was done.
As I’m sure you know all too well, dear reader, I’ve been alone for quite some time now. I know that I’ve come to enjoy it, but I what I did not realize (at least not so overtly) until last night was that I’ve come to depend upon solitude. I need it. If I don’t have at least short periods of being alone with myself, time to collect and regroup, I may as well be carrying kryptonite around in my pocket.
I think it may be time for some sort of retreat for me. Solo hiking or getting engrossed in a novel for a few hours are usually my preferred means of solitude: maybe I’ll take a day off work next week and burn some miles and climb some mountains by myself. This weekend is already booked with group hikes.
Dear Bruce Lee,
Don’t go forgetting about balance. It’s the yin that defines the yang – the solitude that defines the isolation.