Monday, May 12, 2008

The Power of Solitude


Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick, portrays the whaling industry of his time. In today's world, his book may likely upset readers who share more enlightened attitudes about the use and abuse of animals.

But a scene in the story can teach us even today something about the power of solitude and focus in daily life.

Melville gives us a turbulent scene in which a whaleboat scuds across a frothing ocean in pursuit of the great white whale. The sailors are laboring to keep the vessel on course in a raging sea, every muscle taut. They labor furiously as they concentrate on the task at hand. In Captain Ahab's boat, however, there is one man who does nothing. He doesn't hold an oar; he doesn't perspire; he doesn't shout. He is languid - utterly relaxed, quiet and poised. This man is the harpooner, and his job is to patiently wait for the moment. Then Melville gives us this sentence: "To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil."

What a marvelous picture for effective living! Those who would live each day to the fullest must prepare for them from a state of idleness rather than toil. For many people this means a daily period of quiet and meditation to focus, plan or pray.

Self help expert Brian Tracy calls it an indispensable daily time of planning and preparation. He suggests that we devote a full hour to alone time every morning. That is when we set our daily priorities so that we, and not events, are in charge of our lives.

"I don't have time for that!" some people complain. "My life is simply too busy to add one more thing to it."

But many people find that a regular period of solitude to chart the day's course, still the mind, listen and prepare actually creates more time than it takes. For we are most effective when we start to our feet out of idleness and not out of toil.

What if you spent some alone time every morning? Call it prayer. Call it planning. Call it centering.

I call it a powerful way to begin the day.

-- Steve Goodier

Image: flickr.com/Ramesh SA

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