An e-mail yesterday from a friend whose writing and living I admire. He writes:
November 1st is a big day. It's All Saints day, obviously, but also marks the publication of my new book, "Solitude: Recovering the power of alone". Ahh! Can't you just feel the frisson of Luke-warm excitement!?
Traditionally, this is the day when light recovers its poise after the dark and dangerous happenings of Halloween the night before. So it seemed an appropriate moment to free this 280-page child of light into the hushed and waiting world.
The book is a quiet revolution, as all the best revolutions are. Defining solitude as "the active path towards inner silence" and using a Q and A format, it leads us to the life beneath our life and charts the inner movements from loneliness to solitude, from confusion to identity, from busy to still, from fear to discovery, from madness to sanity and from separation to union. There's more to us than meets the eye.
And here's the thing: I'd like you to join the quiet revolution by ordering the book on November 1st, the day of light. That's the book's birth day. That's the day -- if you've so far resisted the temptation -- to skip merrily towards your computer and click on Amazon or some other online outlet and say, "Solitude, please! And in double-quick time, my man!" (You don't have to use these exact words.)
And the history of the book? I started writing it while on holiday beneath a large mountain and a scorching sun. I continued writing it to the sound of breaking glass, violence and burning buildings in my Tottenham neighbourhood during a week of insanity and fear over the summer: a contemporary Halloween.
But wherever I was writing, nothing felt more topical than our need to re-learn the lost art of solitude and to recover the power of the alone. "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone," observed Blaise Pascal in the 17th century. It's an unfashionable diagnosis, but it has never felt more true.
So why do we find it so hard? Partly our education. As parents fill the lives of their children with activity and external stimulation, it creates a half-developed adult. When this is all you know and all you long for, then silence – the silence we enjoyed in the womb – becomes a fearful thing. Untutored in stillness, we have unwittingly been trained for loneliness and distraction and we now pass this condition onto the next generation.
It's time that changed. It's time solitude became a delight and a friend and a revelation once again, both for ourselves and for our children. Solitude brings kindness and awareness in its wake; and a coming home to ourselves.
So can you join the quiet revolution – and the silent barricades – on November 1st?
To mark the day, there's a little launch party -- OOOH! in large letters! -- that evening in The Coronet on the Holloway Road in London N7, because web friends like yourself have been very kind while I was writing. You even appear in the acknowledgements.
Here's the venue...
I'll be in The Coronet from 6.30 to 9.00pm. I may be alone, of course, but then how entirely appropriate that would be.