Edge.org made this their question of the year in 2006, and invited great thinkers to respond. I found the response of U.C. Davis neurobiologist Leo M. Chalupa to be especially intriguing. His dangerous idea? A 24-hour period of absolute solitude.
Modern life brings with it an onslaught of external stimuli such as cell phones, e-mail, text messages, iPods, news reports, etc. Chalupa says the result of this barrage of information is structural modification of the nervous system. He also suggests that any potential benefit gained by the brain exercises that are currently in vogue may be nullified if not counterbalanced with periods of solitude.
His dangerous idea is to take 24 hours of solitude, meaning no written, electronic, or verbal communication of any kind with another human being. In his opinion, this one act would be conducive to optimizing the brain's performance. (Read the article in his own words here).
Prophets, priests, and poets seem instinctively to know that they must engage in periods of solitude. They guard that time jealously. I wonder how many of the Psalms we would have today if David hadn't lived a period of his life as a solitary shepherd?
I heard once that the best marriage is one in which each partner guards the solitude of the other. Happily, I have that kind of a marriage. My husband and I are always covering for each other so that we may each get that needed quiet. Usually it is not 24 hours at one time, but smaller chunks of time on a more frequent basis.
So have you ever engaged in 24 hours of solitude? I would love to hear of your experience.