Saturday, February 21, 2009


As a first post, may I put forward the idea of solitude. Solitude is not at all an antisocial thing. You have a private space, if you have any sense, and you guard it, even from your significant other. Picasso, a man of acute instincts and wide availability, had this to say:

Nothing can be done without solitude. I made for myself a solitude unsuspected by anyone.

Solitude, for Picasso, might have been a room that only he could see, that only he could enter, and that he carried with him at all times. It doesn't sound like something he had to go to, or to find, or to construct on the fly. Maybe it was a cat that he kept in a shirt pocket. Maybe, when it purred, it was like the drone in Indian music that marks the cycle and sets the tonal foundation.

At the pathological end is the person who is always alone, even in a crowd, and yet he's unaware of solitude. His purpose is likely to pursue thoughts and actions that are inimical to those around him. At the other end is the person who, though frankly contemptuous and resentful of solitude, is yet thought to be an angel, to be entirely at the service of the public good. Her purpose is likely to offer to help.

Woe to those who resist either.

In the middle is the sane one, possibly the dull one, balanced and equable. This is the person to whom everyone turns when the room is finally in shambles; the one who can move in and out of the state of solitude, in touch with everyone, as well as intimate with a happy few. Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle and deserve to be encouraged in this, though not rewarded.

This is a photograph of Philip Noiret and Totò Cascio, a still from the film "Nuovo cinema paradiso" of Giuseppe Tornatore. M. Noiret seems to know solitude. He died just recently, within the last year or so. He worked on many pictures in Italy and was as much loved there as is Monica Bellucci today in France. That's MB down on the right.

Actually, I have no idea what M. Noiret prefered, but he smoked cigars. That means he had a taste for the best things in life. It means he understood solitude very well. Because of his public notoriety he could probably have gotten away with smoking them where others would be asked to leave, but his face, in these pictures, is that of someone who knew the recuperative power of solitude, of getting up and excusing oneself, and of going off to the good company waiting in the smoking room.

This looks like a still. A healthy glow runs deep in her skin. Her solitude actively solicits your attention. There is makeup and lighting, it is true, but the focused precise feel in her hands and the contemplative race of the eye between her eyelids and lips overcome any ill effect of science. Solitude is not pale or self-regarding. Part of the essence of solitude is exchange. As MB said in a Paris-Match interview: "It is in exchanging that you come to know yourself." And knowing yourself is the larger part of solitude.

Here's what a German had to say about solitude:

"My greatest wealth is the deep stillness in which I strive and grow and win what the world cannot take from me with fire or sword" -- Goethe

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