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In the solitude to which every man is always returning, he has a sanity and revelations, which in his passage into new worlds he will carry with him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Solitude is a state of isolation, seclusion, or lack of contact, association, or similarity with other people. Short-term solitude is often valued as a time when one may work, think or rest without being disturbed, or for the sake of desirable privacy. Loneliness is a state of sorrow associated with undesired solitude.

Lugalbanda lies idle in the mountains, in the faraway places; he has ventured into the Zabu mountains. No mother is with him to offer advice, no father is with him to talk to him. No one is with him whom he knows, whom he values, no confidant is there to talk to him. In his heart he speaks to himself. ~ Lugalbanda and the Anzud Bird
Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone.
Octavio Paz
We are rarely proud when we are alone.
Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my awareness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has prevented me from feelings of isolation. ~Albert Einstein
The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. No big laboratory is needed in which to think. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born. ~Nikola Tesla
I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. ~Henry David Thoreau

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  • While God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone. He also created a woman, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.' Lilith responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air.
  • My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.


  • R. Hanina said: One may not sleep in a house alone [in a lonely house], and whoever sleeps in a house alone is seized by Lilith.
    • Babylonian Talmud on Tractate Shabbath 151b
  • Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.
    • Francis Bacon, 'Essays', XXVII “On Friendship” (1612, rewritten 1625). Bacon is paraphrasing from Aristotle, 'Politics', 1253a25-30
  • Alone, adj. In bad company.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • Le sage quelquefois évite le monde, de peur d’être ennuyé.
  • I was a man who thrived on solitude; without it I was like another man without food or water. Each day without solitude weakened me.
  • But 'midst the crowd, the hum, the shock of men,
    To hear, to see, to feel, and to possess,
    And roam along, the world's tired denizen,
    With none who bless us, none whom we can bless.
  • 'Tis solitude should teach us how to die;
    It hath no flatterers; vanity can give
    No hollow aid; alone—man with his God must strive.


  • A man is born alone and dies alone; and he experiences the good and bad consequences of his karma alone; and he goes alone to hell or the Supreme abode.
  • Alone, alone, all, all alone,
    Alone on a wide, wide sea.
  • So lonely 'twas that God himself
    Scarce seemed there to be.
  • Who knows what true loneliness is — not the conventional word, but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask. The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or some illusion.


  • The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.
    • William O. Douglas, dissenting, Public utilities Commission v. Pollak, 343 U.S. 451, 467 (1952)


  • Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my awareness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has prevented me from feelings of isolation.
  • I gang my own gait and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties I have never lost an obstinate sense of detachment, of the need for solitude — a feeling which increases with the years.
  • I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.
  • Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society.


  • Well, if I were the last man on Earth, really the last man on Earth, where everybody's dead but me, first I would go over to the art museum and bring back a Rembrandt or two, as Neville does; you dont notice it much in the film, but it counted for me. He can do what he wants. He doesn't have to change his clothes. He just goes into a store and picks up a new set of pants and a shirt. Whatever he wants. And there's plenty of gas, so he doesn't have to worry about gas prices. And we do that, too. I think that was part of what we were trying for, to present to an audience what it would be like to be the last man on Earth.
  • If I were truly the last man on Earth, I would talk to myself. I've been out in the woods, hunting and things. There's no one else to talk to, so you talk to yourself. Why not? In Neville's case, there is no one else to talk to. That's part of the beginning of the film. When he finds that there is actually someone else alive, that changes the direction of his behavior.


  • Why will you go alone and keep company with no one on the journey? If our beneficent spirit does not stand by you there, if our good protective deity does not go with you there, you will never again stand with us where we stand, you will never again dwell with us where we dwell, you will never again set your feet on the ground where our feet are. You will not come back from the great mountains, where no one goes alone, whence no one returns to mankind!
  • We have heard of the solitude of the wide ocean, of the sandy desert, of the pathless forest; but, for a real, thorough, and entire knowledge, far beyond Zimmerman’s, of the pleasures of solitude, commend us to a young damsel doomed to a sofa and female society, while quadrille after quadrille is formed in her sight, and the waltzes go round like stars with whose motions we have nothing to do.


  • A person who lives in a place where the norms of behavior are evil and the inhabitants do not follow the straight path should move to a place where the people are righteous and follow the ways of the good.

    If all the places with which he is familiar and of which he hears reports follow improper paths, as in our times, ... he should remain alone in seclusion. ...

    If they are wicked and sinful and do not allow him to reside there unless he mingle with them and follow their evil behavior, he should go out to caves, thickets, and deserts.

    • Maimonides, Laws Concerning Character Traits, Chapter 6, Section 1
  • And Wisdom's self
    Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude,
    Where, with her best nurse, Contemplation,
    She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings,
    That in the various bustle of resort
    Were all too ruffled, and sometimes impaired.
  • For solitude sometimes is best society,
    And short retirement urges sweet return.


  • Where there have been powerful governments, societies, religions, public opinions, in short wherever there has been tyranny, there the solitary philosopher has been hated; for philosophy offers an asylum to a man into which no tyranny can force its way, the inward cave, the labyrinth of the heart.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. Hollingdale, “Schopenhauer as educator,” § 3.3, p. 139
  • These people who have fled inward for their freedom also have to live outwardly, become visible, let themselves be seen; they are united with mankind through countless ties of blood, residence, education, fatherland, chance, the importunity of others; they are likewise presupposed to harbour countless opinions simply because these are the ruling opinions of the time; every gesture which is not clearly a denial counts as agreement.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. Hollingdale, “Schopenhauer as educator,” § 3.3, p. 139


  • Then there is a very small remnant, Adeimantus, I said, of worthy disciples of philosophy: perchance some noble nature, brought up under good influences, and in the absence of temptation, who is detained by exile in her service, which he refuses to quit; or some lofty soul born in a mean city, the politics of which he contemns or neglects; and perhaps there may be a few who, having a gift for philosophy, leave other arts, which they justly despise, and come to her; and peradventure there are some who are restrained by our friend Theages' bridle (for Theages, you know, had everything to divert him from philosophy; but his ill-health kept him from politics). My own case of the internal sign is indeed hardly worth mentioning, as very rarely, if ever, has such a monitor been vouchsafed to any one else. Those who belong to this small class have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen and been satisfied of the madness of the multitude, and known that there is no one who ever acts honestly in the administration of States, nor any helper who will save any one who maintains the cause of the just. Such a savior would be like a man who has fallen among wild beasts—unable to join in the wickedness of his fellows, neither would he be able alone to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore he would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and would have to throw away his life before he had done any good to himself or others. And he reflects upon all this, and holds his peace, and does his own business. He is like one who retires under the shelter of a wall in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries along; and when he sees the rest of mankind full of wickedness, he is content if only he can live his own life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good will, with bright hopes.


  • A man with no friends, only live for revenge
    Live his life off the henge, cut, through a thousand men
    Blade swing with the force of a cyclone
    Cut crystal and bone, pistol and chrome
    Stand in my path, you're a dead man
    I cut the whole world in half for the Number One headband
    Quest of a lonely soul, on a lonely road
    • RZA, Afro Samurai Theme


  • People are rendered sociable by their inability to endure solitude, that is to say, their own society. They become sick of themselves. It is this vacuity of soul which drives them to intercourse with others. ... Such people, it may be said, possess only a small fraction of humanity in themselves; and it requires a great many of them put together to make up a fair amount of it,—to attain any degree of consciousness as men. A man, in the full sense of the word,—a man par excellence—does not represent a fraction, but a whole number: he is complete in himself.
  • A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. Constraint is always present in society, like a companion of whom there is no riddance; and in proportion to the greatness of a man’s individuality, it will be hard for him to bear the sacrifices which all intercourse with others demands.
  • When you find human society disagreeable and feel yourself justified in flying to solitude, you can be so constituted as to be unable to bear ... it for any length of time, which will probably be the case if you are young. Let me advise you, then, to form the habit of taking some of your solitude with you into society, to learn to be to some extent alone even though you are in company; not to say at once what you think, and, on the other hand, not to attach too precise a meaning to what others say; rather, not to expect much of them, either morally or intellectually, and to strengthen yourself in the feeling of indifference to their opinion, which is the surest way of always practicing a praiseworthy toleration. If you do that, you will not live so much with other people, though you may appear to move amongst them: your relation to them will be of a purely objective character. This precaution will keep you from too close contact with society, and therefore secure you against being contaminated or even outraged by it. Society is in this respect like a fire—the wise man warming himself at a proper distance from it; not coming too close, like the fool, who, on getting scorched, runs away and shivers in solitude, loud in his complaint that the fire burns.
  • When, musing on companions gone,
    We doubly feel ourselves alone.
  • Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.
  • It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.
  • Solitude is the mother of anxieties.


  • The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. No big laboratory is needed in which to think. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.
  • I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will... The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervish in the desert. The farmer can work alone in the field or the woods all day, hoeing or chopping, and not feel lonesome, because he is employed...
  • If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours … In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.
  • Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. It wears us out by multiplying distractions and beats us down by destroying our solitude, where otherwise we might drink and renew our strength before going out to face the world again.
    “The thoughtful soul to solitude retires,” said the poet of other and quieter times; but where is the solitude to which we can retire today? Science, which has provided men with certain material comforts, has robbed them of their souls by surrounding them with a world hostile to their existence.
  • There is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a Dream, a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And You are but a Thought — a vagrant Thought, a useless Thought, a homeless Thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities.


  • We are rarely proud when we are alone.
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764)


  • Self-expression is impossible in relation with other men; their self-expression interferes with it. The greatest heights of self-expression in poetry, music, painting – are achieved by men who are supremely alone.
  • Similar though Marx and Thoreau may be in their accounts of the consequences of living in a society defined by money, their suggestions for how to respond to it are poles apart. Forget the Party. Forget the revolution. Forget the general strike. Forget the proletariat as an abstract class of human interest. Thoreau's revolution begins not with discovering comrades to be yoked together in solidarity but with the embrace of solitude. For Thoreau, Marx's first and fatal error was the creation of the aggregate identity of the proletariat. Error was substituted for error. The anonymity and futility of the worker were replaced by the anonymity and futility of the revolutionary. A revolution conducted by people who have only a group identity can only replace one monolith of power with another, one misery with another, perpetuating the cycle of domination and oppression. In solitude, the individual becomes most human, which is to say most spiritual.
    • Curtis White, “The spirit of disobedience: An invitation to resistance,” Harper’s, April 2006, pp. 37-38


  • O sacred solitude! divine retreat!
    Choice of the prudent! envy of the great,
    By thy pure stream, or in thy waving shade,
    We court fair wisdom, that celestial maid.
  • O! lost to virtue, lost to manly thought,
    Lost to the noble sallies of the soul!
    Who think it solitude to be alone.
  • This sacred shade and solitude, what is it?
    'Tis the felt presence of the Deity,
    Few are the faults we flatter when alone.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 729-31.
  • Converse with men makes sharp the glittering wit,
    But God to man doth speak in solitude.
  • I am as one who is left alone at a banquet, the lights dead and the flowers faded.
  • Alone!—that worn-out word,
    So idly spoken, and so coldly heard;
    Yet all that poets sing, and grief hath known,
    Of hope laid waste, knells in that word—ALONE!
  • Nunquam se minus otiosum esse quam cum otiosus; nec minus solum quam cum solus esset.
    • That he was never less at leisure than when at leisure; nor that he was ever less alone than when alone.
    • Cicero, De Officiis (44 B.C.), Book III, Chapter I. Also in Rep. I. 17. 27. A saying of Scipio Africanus, as quoted by Cato. Also attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux
  • I praise the Frenchman; his remark was shrewd,—
    "How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude."
    But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
    Whom I may whisper—Solitude is sweet.
    • William Cowper, Retirement, line 739. The quotation is attributed to La Bruyère and to Jean Guez de Balzac
  • Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
    Some boundless contiguity of shade,
    Where rumour of oppression and deceit,
    Of unsuccessful or successful war,
    Might never reach me more!
  • O solitude, where are the charms
    That sages have seen in thy face?
    Better dwell in the midst of alarms,
    Than reign in this horrible place.
  • Solitude is the nurse of enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is the true parent of genius. In all ages solitude has been called for—has been flown to.
    • Isaac D'Israeli, The Literary Character, Illustrated by the History of Men of Genius (1795-1822), Chapter X
  • There is a society in the deepest solitude.
    • Isaac D'Israeli, The Literary Character, Illustrated by the History of Men of Genius (1795-1822), Chapter X
  • So vain is the belief
    That the sequestered path has fewest flowers.
  • Thrice happy he, who by some shady grove,
    Far from the clamorous world; doth live his own;
    Though solitary, who is not alone,
    But doth converse with that eternal love.
  • We enter the world alone, we leave it alone.
  • I was never less alone than when by myself.
  • Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergiebt,
    Ach! der ist bald allein.
  • Nobody with me at sea but myself.
  • Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife.
  • O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
    Let it not be among the jumbled heap
    Of murky buildings: climb with me the steep,—
    Nature's observatory—whence the dell,
    In flowery slopes, its river's crystal swell,
    May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
    'Mongst boughs pavilion'd, where the deer's swift leap
    Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.
    • John Keats, Sonnet, O Solitude! If I Must With Thee Dwell
  • Why should we faint and fear to live alone,
    Since all alone, so Heaven has willed, we die,
    Nor even the tenderest heart and next our own
    Knows half the reasons why we smile and sigh.
    • John Keble, Christian Year, Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity
  • Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.
  • I feel like one who treads alone
    Some banquet hall deserted,
    Whose lights are fled, whose garlands dead,
    And all but he departed.
  • Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
    The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires.
  • Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
    From youth to age a reverend hermit grew;
    The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
    His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well,
    Remote from man, with God he pass'd the days;
    Prayer all his business, all his pleasure praise.
  • Shall I, like an hermit, dwell
    On a rock or in a cell?
  • Then never less alone than when alone.
  • Atque ubi omnia nobis mala solitudo persuadet.
    • And when Solitude leads us into all manner of evil.
    • Seneca the Younger, Epistle 25. Quoting Galgacus, leader of the Britains
  • I love tranquil solitude
    And such society
    As is quiet, wise, and good.
  • A wise man is never less alone than when he is alone.
  • Alone each heart must cover up its dead;
    Alone, through bitter toil, achieve its rest.
  • 'Tis not for golden eloquence I pray,
    A godlike tongue to move a stony heart—
    Methinks it were full well to be apart
    In solitary uplands far away,
    Betwixt the blossoms of a rosy spray,
    Dreaming upon the wonderful sweet face
    Of Nature, in a wild and pathless place.
  • I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.
  • I could live in the woods with thee in sight,
    Where never should human foot intrude:
    Or with thee find light in the darkest night,
    And a social crowd in solitude.
  • Impulses of deeper birth
    Have come to him in solitude.
  • They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude.
  • Often have I sighed to measure
    By myself a lonely pleasure,—
    Sighed to think I read a book,
    Only read, perhaps, by me.

See also[edit]

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