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investigator brought to light fifty cases of children who bave invented such companions. Akin to this is the practice of “talking to one's self” which grows up in hermits, trappers, prospectors, and other solitaries, and which seems due to the fact that the lonely soul finds a faint companionship in the sound of the voice just as the timid boy in the dark is heartened by hearing his own whistling.
Even the making of objects which other human beings might admire, enjoy, or use is a comfort to the solitary. Mr. Small says: “They go to work without squares, gravers, stamps, patterns, or models. Every scrap of glass or metal, every nail and pin, turns to account as a tool. Waste from the shop, bones from the kitchen, walnut, cocoanut, acorn shells, feathers, locks of hair, the bark of trees, pebbles, every kind of fragment, affords materials. Tin plates, the bowls of spoons, stone jugs, old bottles, dippers, bed posts, table tops, cell walls, and the bottoms of chairs serve for canvas and parchment." The prisoner finds relief from his loneliness by tearing pictures out of books and newspapers and fastening them on his walls. If he has a latent artistic talent he lines his cell with drawings, which almost always represent human heads or figures. If he writes he is likely to produce autobiography, the most intimate of all literary forms. Thus, “Every trifle wrought in confinement; every color stain upon prison walls; every nonsense couplet; and every attempt at biography or philosophy, represents an effort of loneliness to people the waste of hours to which the physical presence of others is denied. It is an effort to multiply the spirits of one's own personality when all other avenues of intercourse are closed."
GENIUS AND SOLITUDE
Still, terrible as is solitude, some souls prefer it to too much society. Various motives lead one to wish to be much by himself. Men of genius voluntarily turn recluse in order to create original works. In the words of Ruskin, "An artist should be fit for the best society and should keep out of it.” Thoreau puts it: “The
*M. H. Small, “Psychical Relations of Society and Solitude,” Pedagogical Seminary, VII, 53.
a Ibid., p. 58.
reason of isolation is not that we love to be alone, but that we love to soar; and when we soar the company grows thinner and thinner until there is none left.” Even when they seek communion, geniuses are so fretted or bored by the chatter of commonplace persons that they prefer to be alone. In his letters Wagner confesses: “I always feel it to be a useless and utterly resultless proceeding to converse with anyone.” “Nothing agrees with me like solitude.” Schopenhauer thought that “Who does not love solitude loves not freedom.” Wordsworth prizes
that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude. Zimmermann declares, “Who lives with wolves must join in their howls.” Cicero writing to Atticus avers that, excepting the dear friend he is addressing, he loves nothing so well as solitude; while Thoreau thought one person to the square mile is enough and wrote, "I never found the companion who was so companionable as solitude.” On the other hand Hume confesses, “I feel all my opinions loosen and fall of themselves when not supported by others,” and George Sand cries, “I care but little that I am growing old but that I am growing old alone.” De Senancour, author of “Obermann,' renounces the world, yet wishes there might be at his end one friend to “receive his adieu to life.” Cowper exclaims:
How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude.
Whom I may whisper, Solitude is sweet. Gifted men who are far above or ahead of their time are likely to be so neglected, misunderstood, or hawked at that in despair they turn misanthrope and hold aloof from their kind. The biographies of genius are full of tragedies of expansive souls, yearning for communion and sympathy, yet finding their offerings ignored or rejected, so that they end eating out their hearts in their loneliness. The world never forgives their being different.
A great variety of conditions may lead to voluntary isolation. Of one hundred famous solitaries studied by Small' eighteen suffered from physical weakness and horror of muscular effort; seven had a physical deformity or some sense defect; seventeen were of a pronounced neurotic type; nine had hallucinations; eight were famed for visions, thirty were extremely subjective from childhood, three were reared in the cloister and six were bred in the midst of a solitude almost as intense, sixteen suffered from aboulia, referred to as “lack of will” or “lack of force for work.” Too much luxury or profligate companions drove eight to the cloister; defeat of party made seven solitary; loss of friends and disappointment in love alienated fifteen, Religion led twelve into retirement; science and philosophy, eleven; several were solitary per force since they were either imprisoned or banished. Perhaps a dozen really suffered isolation from entertaining ideas too advanced for their age.
* Ibid., p. 19.
SOCIETY AND SOLITUDE We must, in short, recognize the existence of two opposite types. The sociable man wants to join any crowd he happens to come upon. He is glad to be one of a great congregation, a procession, a regiment, enjoys moving in step or cheering in concert with a thousand others. If he possesses a weighty secret, it presses him to communicate it and if he curbs the impulse he falls mentally ill. The individualist, on the contrary, prefers the trackless wood to the beaten path, empty rooms to full ones, small congregations to large ones, wilderness to towns, fields to thoroughfares. Such was the American backwoods type who, when he could hear the sound of a neighbor's ax, reckoned “Folks are gittin' too crowded," and moved on.
What is it the sociable man craves ? The mere sight of others ? No, “a crowd is not company.” Not the presence of others but reciprocity of feeling relieves the ache in the breast. That one is dear who seems to care about us. One of the worst forms of college hazing is the "silent treatment,” feigning that the obnoxious messmate does not exist. To the friendless newcomer the loneliness of the great city is hardly less cruel than that of the far hill farm. Hosts of acquaintances or admirers cannot still the thirst of the heart like a single friend. The high-placed executive, commandant, or employer may live as lonely as a castaway on a coral reef. On the other hand no one loves a thousand as individuals. The man of wide benevolence simply loves an imaginary generalized human being. Only in this way can the missionary be said to love the race he labors among or a philanthropist take to heart the sufferings of a far people.
In sooth, our taste for society like that for salt is soon cloyed. Many find one good friend enough and few would get more satisfaction out of a hundred friends than out of a dozen. The man with many friendships runs the risk of cultivating them too little to reap a harvest. The value of companionship, like that of any necessary of life, falls rapidly as the supply increases. Backwoods and desert are hospitable chiefly because there the wayfarer has a scarcity value. In a strange land the traveler falls with joy upon the neck of the rare fellow-countryman; multiply such meetings and he will discriminate. In the wilderness the lone prospector's delight in coming upon another human being is, one might almost say, as the square of the number of days since he saw a countenance. In a crowd the country-bred man quickly assumes personal attitudes toward those about him, while the townsman in the press holds himself spiritually aloof. City congestion has bred in him the habit of regarding the ordinary fellowman as a mere moving bulk to be avoided as one avoids a rolling stone.
THE STIMULUS FROM ASSOCIATION
Children never get so "wild" as when playing with others. The “only” child becomes at times leaden, cannot “think of anything to do," and begs to "go over to Jimmie's.” When visiting children unexpectedly arrive, he becomes another being, laughs, shouts, jumps about, and shakes with eagerness as he excitedly exhibits his playthings and accomplishments. The writer or artist does his best alternating between fellowship and solitude. Too long alone his founts of inspiration run dry and his visions pale.
“ 'Tis hard,” says Emerson, “to mesmerize ourselves, to whip our own top; but through sympathy we are capable of energy and endurance. Concert fires people to a certain fury of performance they can rarely reach alone.”
The maxim of the sage now rests on an experimental basis. According to Burnham, Dr. Mayer of Wurzburg studied experimentally the difference between the mental work of pupils in a group and the isolated pupil. In general the result of the work of the pupils in groups was superior to their work as isolated individuals, the superiority showing not only in decrease of time but in the quality of the work. One pupil who took 10 minutes and 25 seconds to do some work alone did it in class in 7 minutes and 30 seconds. Another who took 13 minutes and 11 seconds took 6 minutes and 45 seconds in a group. This result tallies with that of Schmidt, who, testing children in their home work as compared with their school work, found that for most kinds of work the product in the classroom was superior.
* Society and Solitude.
a “The Group as a Stimulus to Mental Activity,” Science, New Series, XXXI, 761-67.
Dr. Triplett tested the influence of the presence of a co-worker on a simple physical act, the turning of a reel as fast as possible. Two results were noted. It appeared, on the one hand, that a pupil worked more rapidly when in company with another child, but, on the other hand, in the case of many children hasty uncoordinated movements appeared which reduced their performance.
Neumann corroborated in a striking way the results of Triplett. Seven púpils of the ages of thirteen and fourteen were tested repeatedly with the dynamometer and the ergograph. In the case of the test of the pupils separately, with no one else in the room, the amount of work done was always less than when others were present. If the experiments were made in the presence of the teacher alone, the pupils did not do as much work as when they were all together without the teacher.
Testing the memory of pupils alone and when working together, he obtained similar results. While in the case of children of thirteen or fourteen years of age there was no essential difference in memory for the individual and the common test, the difference was remarkably large in the case of the younger children. On an average with the individual test the children remembered considerably less than in the class. Not a child was found who remembered more in the individual test than in the class test. It is not surprising then that when asked whether they would rather do an exercise in the class or alone undisturbed by the noise of other pupils eighty per cent replied that they would rather do it in the class.