The Beauty of Loneliness


Climb at court for me that will
Tottering favour’s pinnacle
All I seek is to lie still.
Settled in some secret nest
In calm leisure let me rest,
And far off the public stage
Pass away my silent age.
Thus when without noise, unknown,
I have liv’d out all my span,
I shall die, without a groan,
An old honest country man.
Who expos’d to others’ eyes,
Into his own heart ne’er pries,
Death to him’s a strange surprise.

Seneca – The Quiet Life (Trans: Andrew Marvell)

In times such as these when the human experience is changed, lives altered and ‘isolation’ is imposed and required, perhaps we are set to thinking about what isolation actually is, what does isolation mean? Are we really ‘isolated’?

From others of our own species then yes we are isolated, we are alone, we are cut off; yet on this planet we inhabit for, as Seneca tells us, only a while; we are never alone, we are never truly isolated. We are able at times to leave our dwelling and we can experience all that is around us, are we not now beginning to realise the beauty and companionship of nature, of natural things, of the delight of creation. Seneca here talks about a life about to end but having experienced the joy of his surroundings, the chance to ‘lie still’ and to be ‘settled’.

If far from the end of life but in the midst of the beauty of nature we are never alone, the sound of bird song, the slow crackle of fern fronds unravelling, the lazy stream meandering along its course, the sheer joy of bucolic beauty. To be able watch the birds wheeling in the sky and hear their many varying calls, to watch a an early butterfly settle on a flower, surely we are never alone.

Whether walking in a park or on remote moors life is all around and spring is a time for enjoying the re emergence of life all around us, we are never alone. Now is the time to appreciate difference, a new companionship, not one which will answer us in words but in experience, in connection with the natural world.

Thus perhaps as the poets and philosophers of old dedicated a life alone to explore the world around them now we have an opportunity to do the same, whether from an urban balcony or the surrounding countryside our experience is changing; change which needs to be embraced. Loneliness is real however we are never truly alone.

Loch Rannoch at sunset