Thursday, July 14, 2016

Solitude vs. Loneliness

I've been thinking about solitude. Solitude versus loneliness.

"All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to other in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community." - Henri Nouwen

Is this it?

People watching in a tourist town behind glass. With a beer in hand so it is a double meaning. Behind the window, behind the glass. Pen in the other hand instead of a phone. Dining alone never bothers me. This is self imposed solitude that is anything but lonely. But I'm watching these people walk by, and I'm thinking about counting how many of them are walking looking down. Peripheral vision is not engaged while there is a whole other world in the screen in their hands. I keep expecting one of them to walk off the sidewalk into traffic, or bump into a passerby or a pole. It doesn't happen today.

This is so obviously what I needed. Solitude away from what at times feels like a home in a prison colony. The home itself not a prison, but the location of it, so remote, the community so lacking. Fallen down buildings, fallen out teeth. Overgrown lots, overgrown adults. Burnt out trailers, burnt out addicts. The drive just to get anywhere to experience anything other than poverty is exhausting in itself. Two hours travel just to be somewhere that doesn't feel like its standing still. Alone in the bathhouse turned brewery, perched at a counter in front of a huge picture window, I sat and watched. Savored my beer and good food, counted my blessings, and then I took a walk to see Mother Mary.

I tried to meditate on her solitude.  How utterly alone she must have felt after her only Son gave his life. Then I recall John 19:26-27 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. At this point Mary became the mother of the Church, which could come with great solitude but hardly loneliness. I always ask her to intercede for me that I might be a better mother myself and learn to love as selflessly as she, but I think from now on I will include a petition for learning to live in solitude among community so as to not feel lonely anymore.

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