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Peace in Silence

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In the world that has embraced technology so much, people have formed virtual communities where friendships, relationships, work groups and social commentaries have been redefined completely with their own rules and mechanisms of engagements. In The End of Solitude, Deresiewiscz notes that the convergence of various technologies has led to the emergence of the Internet. Due to its vastness and complexity in terms of its multimedia capabilities, the spread of the Internet has resulted in its use in business, learning, social interactions and government operations worldwide. This has been attributed to its interactive avenues like social network sites, instant messaging, e-mail, downloading capabilities and search engine availabilities. The Internet provides a new platform that is characterized by immediacy, anonymity and fast interconnectedness that has enabled mass interactions among citizens of the world to such extent that anyone not using social media platforms is considered not touching base with political, infotainment and social issues in society. However, the mankind should not lose on the fair share of challenges that come with embracing technology. China, a communist country where I was born and raised, is not so liberal in allowing their citizens to utilize the Internet. There are several websites, particularly those in line with social networking and blogging, which are banned from coming into contact with the Chinese citizens. The censorship confuses the people outside of China, but we have come to understand why the government tightly regulates our activity in the World Wide Web. Some pieces of information are not needed to be known by the public. Apart from its gentle giant economy and one-child policy, China is known to be a country of a few words. The age of technology has certainly threatened the private lives of my country. With that, the government is doing the best they can to protect China from westernization.

People have been immersed into the culture of becoming known, and as Deresiewiscz argues ‘celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: it wants to be visible’. When I first came to the United States three years ago, I was amazed by the intensity of democracy that floats in the country. There is no speech censorship and banned websites. Their newspapers and politic groups are encouraging Americans to be brutally candid even. Independence is everywhere but this has become overwhelming for me. Liberty has its boundaries, too. There is no need to be visible all the time, in all aspect of one’s life. In the quest to attain visibility, life has become a rat race, full of meaningless hustles. Being invisible terrifies people, and there’s no solace in being unknown. Technology has gradually and systematically stripped people of their privacy and this is culture-inflicted. Anyone can cross the line in secret or in public, and this is not prohibited. For someone who is used to minding his own business, I find this lack of respect of privacy extremely offensive.

Solitude brings peaceful silence, and this has been embraced for millennia by religious pundits in search of religious rejuvenation, rebirth and communication with God. For effective introspection, solitude provides the avenue for such an endeavor and is a respected traditional value. It is only through the peacefulness of silence provided by solitude that people get to hear their inner voices and get in touch with the inner self. In this world where are constantly bombarded with distractions in the forms of unnecessary social involvements and activities. It will certainly help rejuvenate our minds and psyche if we stop for a moment and reflect on our inner life. As a social practice of self-examination, solitude is embraced by both the religious reformation that democratized it, and the Romanticism that secularized it and allowed it to achieve its cultural prominence. Technology has become a fertile ground for breeding loneliness and boredom with no chance of aspiring to experience the beauty of things unseen and untouchable. The false security of companionship offered by virtual friends met online only aggravates the sense of loneliness. The lack of real physical interactions between humans has weakened social bonds as the Internet continues to rewire our brains. The former generation abhors the new kind of connection their sons and daughters has with technology because as our association with technology intensifies, our idealisms get messier. It has become increasingly difficult to sustain concentration in any human communication endeavors, and the web provides the escape route with further deleterious effects to the social cohesion and integration. In America (and perhaps other Western countries who have a similar technology-riddled culture), reading printed books is no longer in vogue and students’ concentration by the minute diminishes. They prefer to scheme and scan web pages five minutes, tops. Students in my homeland still strongly rely on encyclopedia, journals and other scholarly books.  

Geniuses are considered to embrace solitude, and great people have to disassociate themselves from embracing populist intellectual and moral discourses. Emerson (quoted in Deresiewiscz) opines that ‘He who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from traveling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions’. Spending time alone in quiet peacefulness engages one to reflect on inner thoughts and feelings, and question their depth of character and interpersonal relationships. Einstein in his A Human is a Part of a Whole argues that humans are consumed by feelings of being separated from the rest of mankind, and this need not be the case ‘This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty’. To embrace nature, people have to quietly reflect on its endless beauty in order to appreciate it. The realization of what we stand for in the universe of things can only be achieved through introspection, and as such, happiness can be attained. The effect of self-detachment is apparent in my generation. The loss of self-introspection has caused, in my intense observation, many of today’s youth to lose track of their goals, leaving them utterly unhappy. In the last three years I spent living in America as an international student, the country has shown me that perhaps a good chunk of the new generation is a stranger to thyself.

According to Tolle, ‘Your sense of who you are determines what you perceive as your needs and what matters to you in life – and whatever matters to you will have the power to upset and disturb you. You can use this as a criterion to find out how deeply you know yourself. What matters to you is not necessarily what you say or believe, but what your actions and reactions reveal as important and serious to you’ (114). A true path to knowing what you are is thru knowing who you are not, and this can be achieved through the tranquil environment enhanced by solitude. Most people do not actually know what makes them unhappy, and as Eckhart notes, it is important to realize that you feel unhappy and investigate. This self-evaluation is crucial to self-determination and identity (59).

As we grow up through various stages of life, we are faced with numerous challenges of trying to figure out our personal identities, aspirations, the relationships we have with other people, our career paths, and what the future portends for us. We are bogged down by the unknown instead of focusing on what we know and charting our way through the maze that is life. It is important that we acknowledge how far we have come, and the challenges we have surmounted. By doing this, we can be able to focus on how far we want to go and plan how to get there. American or Chinese, the hustles and bustles of our daily lives are but reminders that we are ordinary mortal beings, and as such they should not preoccupy our minds as we aspire to achieve what we want. Rediscovering oneself therefore is of the essence to the attainment of set goals. But this discovery can only be realized through the understanding of what our purpose in life is, and that a better way to do this is through a purposeful re-examination of our deeper values, beliefs, emotions and human interactions. This can be achieved through listening to the still inner voices.

To listen to the silent voices can be achieved through solitude; the peaceful silence that rejuvenates our spirituality and facilitates the understanding of who we are. However, this is no mean feat to achieve given that man is a social being with daily engagements with other human beings. It is not uncommon to be discouraged by others in your journey of self-discovery. Parents, friends, relatives, colleagues, work environments and other human engagements throw bottlenecks on our way, and only the resilient and determined can survive this avalanche of disruptive sideshows (Deresiewicz, 56). Therefore, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that when embarking on this self-discovery voyage, hurdles are there to make you not lose focus of the ultimate goal. For what does not kill you serve to make you stronger.

Spirituality is an important aspect in this journey, and as such it is pertinent to adhere to the teachings of your faith. Christianity shows that Jesus Christ set precedence for his disciples by teaching them how to persevere the hardships they were bound to face in their quest to spread the gospel. The East has even more diverse religions, but the principles of spirituality basically travel the same backbone of thoughts. Fasting and praying consistently guaranteed them resilience and energy to spread the gospel. To be at peace with oneself is crucial in this journey. Sometimes our efforts at self-discovery are thwarted by the lack of self-belief in ourselves. We might have what it takes to realize our dreams, but then we need someone or some event to take place in order to unlock that potential in us. The Chinese culture has taught every family that every child has a potential. Therefore, parents are aware their child has special abilities and unique strengths. This notion should perhaps be adapted by the West to overcome their new generation’s sense of mediocrity. We are daily bombarded with negative attitudes of those who serve to remind us that we are incapable of achieving our true potentials (Eckhart 34). These dark forces of negativity should be identified and blocked by any means necessary. One must have the self-conviction that they can achieve what they conceive in their minds.

It is therefore necessary that people appreciate the disruptive power of social media in the disruption of the people’s culture, language, values, religious beliefs and humanity. Lack of physical human interactions undermines the very essence of human societies as people turn to machines for solace. Happiness is achieved through self-discovery and the embracing of the little things in life such as real friendship, understanding, humility, respect, and love.

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