Brain Pickings

Tarkovsky’s Advice to the Young: Learn to Enjoy Your Own Company

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“People who grow bored in their own company seem to me in danger.”

“In proportion as [a person] simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude…,” Thoreau famously wrote. “A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it,” Don DeLillo wryly observed. Indeed, in today’s world of constant stimulation and interconnectivity, despite the rise of single living, the art of solitude is in graver danger of squander than ever, more and more susceptible to festering into the toxic sister aberrations of loneliness and boredom.

In this wonderful vintage footage, legendary Russian filmmaker and writer Andrei Tarkovsky offers some timeless advice to the young:

Since the video subtitles convey only a selective portion of what Tarkovsky actually says — quite distractingly so — I asked my friend Julia to help with a proper transcription, which she kindly did:

What would you like to tell people?

I don’t know… I think I’d like to say only that they should learn to be alone and try to spend as much time as possible by themselves. I think one of the faults of young people today is that they try to come together around events that are noisy, almost aggressive at times. This desire to be together in order to not feel alone is an unfortunate symptom, in my opinion. Every person needs to learn from childhood how to be spend time with oneself. That doesn’t mean he should be lonely, but that he shouldn’t grow bored with himself because people who grow bored in their own company seem to me in danger, from a self-esteem point of view.

Complement with Susan Sontag on the creative purpose of boredom and more wisdom for the young from other cultural icons.

Thanks, Sebastian

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