Scientists believe the natural state of the human mind is chaos. Since it lacks innate order, something must happen to keep the mind in an orderly state. To put this in practical terms, it means that when people are alone, with nothing to do, their thoughts tend to become disordered and their moods negative. They suffer psychic entropy.
The neuropsychologist George Miller said, “The mind survives by ingesting information.” When no information is available to keep it in an ordered state, the mind begins to lose control of attention (i.e. it begins to “wander”), at least temporarily. Most people instinctively understand this and deal with solitary time by taking up pastimes such as watching TV, reading, listening to music, thumbing through magazines, or surfing the net. They deliberately expose themselves to an external information source. What’s more, when faced with the prospect of solitary time away from home – with its habitual pursuits – they prepare by buying a magazine or a paperback book, or by taking their iPod or laptop with them.
Interestingly, there are those who have learned to control (occupy) their minds even in the absence of external inputs of information. These people generate mind-ordering information within themselves. They have learned a symbolic system and its operation; that is, they have a deep interest in something that requires deliberate thinking, such as prayer, music, mathematics, poetry, writing, etc. When alone, they are happy to draw on their knowledge and start thinking about their latest project. They are thereby able to avoid the psychic entropy of solitude. Unlike the more typical human being, they even enjoy being alone. Virtuoso violinist, Ginette Neveu, thinking of her many long practice sessions, described this as the “radiant solitude of the artist.”