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  • William Deresiewicz

SINGLE POINT GATHERING


Excerpt #2/4 from 'Solitude and Leadership', an essay by American author, essayist, and literary critic William Deresiewicz. He is the author of A Jane Austen Education, How Six Novels Taught me About Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter (Penguin Press, 2011) and Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life (Free Press, 2014).

'Concentrating, focusing. You can just as easily consider this lecture to be about concentration as about solitude.

'Think about what the word means. It means gathering yourself together into a single point rather than letting yourself be dispersed everywhere into a cloud of electronic and social input. It seems to me that Facebook and Twitter and YouTube—and just so you don’t think this is a generational thing, TV and radio and magazines and even newspapers, too—are all ultimately just an elaborate excuse to run away from yourself.

To avoid the difficult and troubling questions that being human throws in your way.

'Am I doing the right thing with my life? Do I believe the things I was taught as a child? What do the words I live by—words like duty, honor, and country—really mean? Am I happy?

'So it’s perfectly natural to have doubts, or questions, or even just difficulties. The question is, what do you do with them? Do you suppress them, do you distract yourself from them, do you pretend they don’t exist? Or do you confront them directly, honestly, courageously?

'If you decide to do so, you will find that the answers to these dilemmas are not to be found on Twitter or Comedy Central or even in The New York Times. They can only be found within—without distractions, without peer pressure, in solitude.'

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