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Maria Popova (on solitude)

“The choice of solitude, of active aloneness, has relevance…to all human bonds — even Emerson, perhaps the most eloquent champion of friendship in the English language, lived a significant portion of his life in active solitude, the very state that enabled him to produce his enduring essays and journals. And yet that choice is one our culture treats with equal parts apprehension and contempt, particularly in our age of fetishistic connectivity. Hemingway’s famous assertion that solitude is essential for creative work is perhaps so oft-cited precisely because it is so radical and unnerving….

“Solitude, the kind we elect ourselves, is met with judgement and enslaved by stigma. It is also a capacity absolutely essential for a full life.”

Maria Popova (b. 1980) is a writer and critic best known for her popular (and intelligent!) blog Brain PickingsI’d read Jonathan Franzen’s non-fiction collection How To Be Alone — it’s excellent — and when I Twitter-stumbled on a piece of Popova’s essay, I originally thought it must be his. I’ve read her a few times, and she provides one of the very fine places to read and think on-line, all with no commercial irritants. (Sign me up!) The essay here quoted discusses at length a book by Sara Maitland, also called How To Be Alone, part of a series of not-for-dummies guides by a British group called The School of Life. Popova’s full article is what we’re e-learning to call “longform”, which was once known as an “essay”. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, said Somebody Famous, and it’s a rose well worth stopping and smelling. “Fetishistic connectivity”: that’s just delicious, even with all those syllables.

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