From Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s essay “Solitude of Self”, a Rule to Live By:
The chief reason for opening to every soul the doors to the whole round of human duties and pleasures is the individual development thus attained, the resources thus provided under all circumstances to mitigate the solitude that at times must come to everyone. I once asked Prince Krapotkin, a Russian nihilist, how he endured his long years in prison, deprived of books, pen, ink, and paper. “Ah,” he said, “I thought out many questions in which I had a deep interest. In the pursuit of an idea I took no note of time. When tired of solving knotty problems I recited all the beautiful passages in prose or verse I had ever learned. I became acquainted with yself and my own resources. I had a world of my own, a vast empire, that no Russian jailer or Czar could invade.” Such is the value of liberal thought and broad culture when shut off from all human companionship, bringing comfort and sunshine within even the four walls of a prison cell.
The whole essay, in fact, is required reading, for it offers some guidelines as to how to survive the seemingly soul-destroying pressures and anxieties of Living in Society. I take particular heart from it now as I sit here at my co-op’s kitchen table on the first weekend of fall break, trying desperately to piece together my life out of the shards of self-doubt to which it had been reduced after six weeks of term. I mean in the next few days to find a way to more eloquently and constructively write about the hard parts of academic life, why my day-to-day existence has seemed so difficult recently, and how best to deal with it and move forward into Making a Difference—but until I can find my own voice again, I’ll let Stanton’s message of self-reliance and inner resources speak for me.
Oh, that, and Joni Mitchell, and the flaringly bright and beautiful crisp sidewalk-littering leaves of autumn: