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Education Matters: What a day for a daydream

December 17, 2010

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I was watching my 4-year-old grandson playing by himself, completely absorbed with his miniature brigade of pirates and perfectly content to be left alone for hours with only his imagination to keep him company.

It brought me back to some of my earliest memories when I was about his age and left to my own devices, conjuring up a separate world with all sorts of characters and high adventures. As much as I liked playing with my brothers and the kids in the neighborhood, I remember so clearly treasuring my moments alone.

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In my childhood there were the day-long excursions in the mountains near our home with hours of exploring whatever came into view or grasp. There were very special trees that had the most accommodating branches for climbing and for building my own little fortress of solitude, way up high. When I really needed to be alone, that was my place.

I'd like to believe that we are by nature social creatures. Anyone who has ever experienced loneliness —and who among us hasn't — will agree with that. But as much as we derive comfort from each other, there is that other part of our nature, manifested very early in our lives, that is comfortable in solitude as well.

The thought is expressed beautifully by Paul Tillich in his book "Courage to Be," where he writes, "Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone."

One of the absolute essentials of my life is to have time to myself. Time to collect scattered thoughts, time for quiet contemplation, time to think things through, or time to just go along at my own pace. It's a very reasonable demand of the body and the mind that I disengage from everything and everyone occasionally. As much as I need the company of others, it is often when I am alone that I feel fully myself.

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