Good and Solitude

During the Holidays I found myself reading “The Art of Solitude” written by Stephen Batchelor.  I could call myself a writer in that over the years writing these posts,  papers, documents, policies etc. not only turns out to be how I maintain my mental health but also how I feel I can best contribute. But writing is a solitary experience at the core so as I faced the challenges of the hyper-social rituals of the holidays the book’s title strongly appealed to me.  

In the context of The Good Decision,  as well as in science, the decision initiates from a place of solitude in us.  The Good Decision is a discipline designed to pull one out of the solitary experience into an expanding ring of social considerations.  For introverts the decision counters the tendency toward  the narcissism that tells one a decision is only about oneself.   Every decision, large or small, has social consequences and impacts the community around us.  For extroverts, The Good Decision discipline serves as a braking device allowing the time for your neurology to shift you from reaction to considered response.  For both the introvert and extrovert, the discipline requires frank and honest time with oneself prior to the moment of truth, choice and action. In the four Pauses, which ask for snatches of solitude, the human body system can regulate itself, allowing us to sustain a state we like these days to call mental health.

Over this past week while I followed the congressional search for house leadership I felt my heart sinking to a new year’s low.  I needed time to understand how disheartening the whole sad, banal battle was and why I was having trouble with this particular event, particularly after the last couple years of extreme actions that have challenged our democracy.  The cause of my distress last week I believe is that I caught a whiff of future damage in following the disingenuous  exchanges from people who will make decisions for the next two years in our nation’s capital.  The philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote about the ‘banality of evil’ as this deep disease of the soul that does not manifest always in large and extravagant acts of destruction but perhaps more frequently from small pathetic acts of sterile, self serving  ideology conducted at the nexus of power delivering great disproportionate harm to segments of humanity.  People can perform evil acts without the intention of being evil. Their damage occurs as a result of being self serving without imagination or capacity to enter other peoples experience. Our dance with evil begins when the Sense of Good we were born with as children and must preserve and nurture in meditative or prayerful solitude as adults becomes  separated to the point of alienation from the abstractions of our adult minds.  At the point of alienation, good no longer has human scale and that “good”  coming from the alienated mind becomes non-intentionally cruel.  The sad demonstrations of last week were not the cause of my disheartened state, but rather It was what the actions portended for our country over the next two years that weighed on me.

So I guess I will continue to promote this small project called The Good Decision. I found in reading Mr. Batchelor’s book that in solitude we encounter the disturbing presence of none other than ourselves who I believe (my small act of faith) is calling us back to goodness from the recesses of our memory. We need master the first fear of our own solitary memories before we can effectively counter the damage of those who seem to forgotten all together.

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