Summary of “Before You Can Be With Others, First Learn to Be Alone”

Like many poets and philosophers through the ages, Poe stressed the significance of solitude.
Two decades later, the idea of solitude captured Ralph Waldo Emerson’s imagination in a slightly different way: quoting Pythagoras, he wrote: ‘In the morning, – solitude; that nature may speak to the imagination, as she does never in company.
In the 20th century, the idea of solitude formed the centre of Hannah Arendt’s thought.
What Eichmann showed Arendt was that society could function freely and democratically only if it were made up of individuals engaged in the thinking activity – an activity that required solitude.
We might ask, we become lonely in our solitude? Isn’t there some danger that we will become isolated individuals, cut off from the pleasures of friendship? Philosophers have long made a careful, and important, distinction between solitude and loneliness.
Echoing Plato, Arendt observed: ‘Thinking, existentially speaking, is a solitary but not a lonely business; solitude is that human situation in which I keep myself company.
In solitude, Arendt never longed for companionship or craved camaraderie because she was never truly alone.
Arendt reminds us, if we lose our capacity for solitude, our ability to be alone with ourselves, then we lose our very ability to think.

The orginal article.