“Yo nunca voy amar de nuevo.”
– Ceniza en Cenicero, Anuel
Wandering through the forest one misty afternoon in the Sacro Monte di Oropa, Italy, I came to the crossroad above and was faced with a dilemma: to go right, back to my room in the sanctuary, which I will surely reach before the thunder manifests into a real storm; head for the middle path, which merely ends at the chapel; or to take the left, and go deeper into the forest and surrender my fate to wherever this mysterious path leads me.
I decided to throw caution to the wind and satisfy my curiosity. And I was rewarded with the most breathtaking sight:
What does it mean, to be truly “alone”? This past week I have come to sample the taste of bitter disappointment from particular individuals, and have thus resolved to lighten my ship: I cannot, for even a minute longer, carry the burden of people who contribute nothing to my life, do nothing to enrich me, and fail to signal even the slightest sense of gratitude for the friendship I offer.
Michel de Montaigne, in his beautiful essay On Solitude, says that solitude is a state of mind. He likens it to opening a shop at the back of one’s mind, in which one may laugh and converse with oneself as one pleases and admit no one else. This shop exists independently of the state of one’s relations with the people and the world external to oneself. In this shop, one’s own company suffices; it is all that matters.
I took an immense liking to this idea when I first read this book on my solo journey through Italy last summer before I was joined by the merrier company of friends. De Montaigne couldn’t sum it up better — if one internalizes solitude as the making of one’s own mind, and create the most conducive conditions to conjure this “shop” whenever necessary, one is all set to face the world, with or without company. This way, whether one is roaming the streets of London flanked by one’s posse or gallivanting about solo in the dense Piedmontese forested mountains in the peripheries of Italy, there is always reason to be content.
For happiness is essentially a product of one’s own making.