"It should be quite clear then, that there is no question in these pages of the eccentric and regressive solitude that clamors for recognition, and which seeks to focus more pleasurably and more intently on itself by stepping back from the crowd. But unfortunately, however often I may repeat this warning, it will not be heeded. Those who most need to hear it are incapable of doing so. They think that solitude is a heightening of self-consciousness an intensification of pleasure in self. It is a more secret and more perfect diversion. What they want is not the hidden, metaphysical agony of the hermit but the noisy self-congratulations and self-pity of the infant in the cradle. Ultimately what they want is not the desert but the womb.
"The individualist in practice completely accepts the social fictions around him, but accepts them in such a way that they provide a suitable background against which a few private and favored fictions of his own can make an appearance. Without the social background, his individual fictions would not be able to assert themselves, and he would no longer be able to fix his attention upon them."
-- Thomas Merton, Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude, in the book Disputed Questions (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960) p. 184-185