In Search of Solitude
to be alive and dead simultaneously

I've been feeling so scatter-brained for months now, as if life had this loud white noise playing in the background, and my own thoughts are being distorted and interrupted.

It feels like my recent existence hasn't been entirely conscious. It's like I've been alive, but I haven't been living. In a biological sense I am conscious, but from a mental sense I've been entirely asleep. Everything feels like a blur, and nothing is internalized or retained. It's like my consciousness is far away from the body it's supposed to inhabit, almost like watching myself in the third person.

I've known the issue for a long time now, and that's deprivation of time spent alone, with nothing interjecting between my thoughts; time spent to actually think. My usage of media in the past year has been bordering on destructive. Actually, not only the past year, but way beyond that, and it's really been burdening me to a substantial degree.

The Noise Machine

To be honest, modern entertainment is sickening, but I still consume it. It's almost compulsory at this point. I'm not enjoying what I'm intaking, and yet I still come back to it, like a person who lost all sense of taste and eats merely to live.

In between watching a whole bunch of videos, it's almost as if I step out of a drunken stupor. There's a single frame of time when the brain finally snaps out of it and blurts out "what am I even doing?", only to be interrupted by the next shrieking video there to entertain and nothing more. It's almost like a signal hijack.

Modern media is like the proverbial junk food. It tastes good, it's addicting, and it gives you energy, but it's all temporary. After a short high you experience a crash and suddenly you stop functioning. Usually the solution to this is either intaking more junk to counteract the crash, or you rely on food that'll give you sustaining energy and cut out the junk food substantially.

Most of the time, though, those types of food don't taste very good. You'd have to acquire a taste for them first, and that's the hardest part.

At this point I feel like my brain is way too hooked on this sort of artificial stimulation to stay awake. The moment I set time out of my day to stay away from media, I almost fall into a coma; I suddenly get really drowsy and I want to sleep. I really don't want to live my life this way, having to intake media just to stay awake.

And note that I'm literally only using YouTube. If I was using TikTok or something it would probably induce a literal coma. The temporary, high bursts of stimulation in such platforms (and especially with the implementation of TikTok-like clips in other places like YouTube) makes it seem that people would literally disintegrate if the Internet were to go out for a week. Not even that, if the servers of only the big tech giants (Facebook/Meta, Google, Netflix, etc.) were to go out for a week, people wouldn't even know what to do with themselves. It just shows how dangerously dependent we've become to systems well beyond our scope to influence, let alone control.

I need to take time to live outside of a constant stream of stimulation, just to unload all of the garbage I've been intaking because a lot of it is irrelevant; irrelevant to the things that I want to be doing with my life.

Solitude in Craft

Solitude manifests itself in many ways, and it isn't necessarily fruitless. For some reason in my head when I hear "solitude" it almost feels like I should be blankly staring at a wall, but it's something so much more than that.

I like thinking of solitude as times of output. Times when you're processing something that you've been intaking and then spitting something out. And it's not only in the sense of being "productive" or "hustle" or any of those words that just screams of hurtling yourself into an early vanity-driven work-induced tombstone. Times of solitude can be deeply personal.

I think writing for this website is probably the greatest example of outputs during solitude. I typically don't listen to music while writing. My writing isn't based on factual research, but on experience and the culmination of the thoughts that I've gathered from other books and such. They're basically topical journal entries. Because of this, there isn't much of a need to search something up unless I'm checking the definition of a word or something like that.

In a way, solitude has a deep sense of craftsmanship involved. I find it very satisfying to write something in a well-articulated manner, and sometimes that drives me to block out all external stimulation just to heighten my enjoyment of writing. Art to me has the same sort of thing, where I often find that I can easily work without music or anything in the background because I get so engrossed in the process.

And despite the fact that I'm pursuing programming and software development as a career and not as a hobby, that too has solitude deeply imbued into it. Writing clean, efficient, and readable code is supremely satisfying that it's almost like art and writing to me. Of course, I don't expect that to be sustained in an environment laden with deadlines and all sorts of workplace politics, but it's something to strive for at least.

Times of solitude are when I actually feel like I'm living, not only alive in a biological sense. It gives me an overarching satisfaction that gives a sense of purpose. And yet I starve myself out of this time that I know is well spent. Why?

A Moment of Self-Confrontation

Solitude can be scary, because it's a time when there's nothing to get in the way between you and your thoughts.

A few months ago I stayed away from YouTube for around 2 weeks and it was almost as if all of the questions that I left unanswered came back to haunt me. The things which were being neglected were suddenly popping up. It felt like I've finally woken up to the fact of how out of control everything really was. Whether or not I was overthinking it all I don't know, but in the moment it felt suffocating. It almost feels shameful, almost like you've neglected a relationship for a long time and now the other party is confronting you about it.

Sometimes, being with our own thoughts is scary enough that we subconsciously gravitate towards external stimulation just to shut ourselves up. How long will it take before life forcefully drags us out of our inebriation before we even got a chance to prepare? Or more accurately: we got all the time we needed to prepare, we simply neglected it. That's a frightening thought.

Most periods of "solitude" are simply characterized by the anticipation to get out of said solitude. It's like I set myself time to get away from everything, just for me to spend that time thinking of what I'll be doing when I come back. Well, that completely defeats the whole point, doesn't it? You don't quit cigarettes with the prospect of coming back to it, because that's not quitting, you're simply kidding yourself.

The Increasing Scarcity of Boredom

I want to do better and actually take more time to not subject myself to what is basically a sewer of irrelevant information. And even with the things that are relevant, I should aim to intake them in moderation.

There was an experience a few years ago where our family went on vacation to a beach side cottage with no internet connection whatsoever (and if there was, it was very difficult to acquire). I basically spent an entire afternoon playing board games with my older sibling, while my other sibling was asleep on the sofa nearby. It was mind-numbingly boring at the time, but looking back it's one of the most sublime memories I've ever had. Why? I have no clue, because the moment in itself was very boring, but there was something deeper there than merely being jacked up on stimulating media.

It's a weird thing to realize that a large majority of the coming (and already current) generation will possibly go through their entire life without ever getting bored. I don't know how to feel about that. I remember times as a kid where I didn't know what to do, so I personally took the initiative and created random stuff. Creating top-down fictional cities on printer paper, drawing comics, and all sorts of random stuff. Boredom is a natural buffer that actually enhances the activities that are interspersed within it due to the contrast of action and inaction.

Media consumption isn't inaction, it's action that is void of any substance, which is why it's so dangerous, because it may seem productive when it actually isn't. How often do people intake something "educational", thinking that they're learning, only to find out that they never retain it, or it's completely irrelevant to anything? (which is something that I touch on this article also).

Being constantly hooked on overstimulating media will inevitably render every activity outside of that dull in comparison, because it's blurring the line between temporary pleasures and long-lasting satisfaction. If intaking these things makes actually living life outside of consumption more duller, then why am I constantly subjecting myself to it? I don't even know anymore. But the fact that I have no good reasoning for it means that there's already some justification to stop doing it.

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