Monday, March 26, 2012

Solitude and Spirituality

Our topic of “loneliness and solitude” at last Sunday’s early morning Quaker discussion group led me, predictably, to Thoreau. A whole chapter of “Walden” is devoted to solitude and bears the very word as its title.

The line that stick with me is “I love to be alone. I never found the companion so companionable as solitude.”

Thoreau, our most celebrated recluse, goes on from there, anticipating much of what we talked about on Sunday.

Oddly much of Sunday’s discussion centered around whether one feels lonely at a loud dance party. (The consensus seemed to be that if you go with friends, you have some kind of entree),

Not having been to such a party for, oh, 40 years, I couldn’t comment, but I do know that social occasions often heighten my feeling of alienation. The banter, the posturing, the superficiality numb the spirit.

I did share with the group that I have found that creativity goes with my own solitude. Some bit of writing, a sketch, an insight. Or to put Thoreau’s twist on it, I’ve never found creativity so creative as in solitude.”

Someone suggested that loneliness is often what drives us to not be lonely. The pain of it leads us to seek out others — and that’s to the good. I imagine the pain itself forces us to open our hearts to others. But it can also lead us to plumb our being and search our own souls.

Sadly, there are those who simply surrender to loneliness...and despair. It is irrefutable that we are ultimately here alone, and will leave life in either loneliness or solitude — or peace.

Thoreau never felt lonely because he put himself at one with surrounding nature. Nature was his companion and, I dare say, it can be ours. If you are lonely, go for a walk in the park. Take it in — literally.

Because Sunday’s discussion took place in a Quaker setting, I was mindful of the spiritual side of the topic. It seemed to me that loneliness is largely about ego; solitude is about spirit. The “self” that feels deprived in loneliness is the ego. The being that feels enriched and blessed in solitude is the spirit—the divine spirit if you choose to invoke it.

Loneliness is a prison, a trap; solitude is liberation and transcendence.

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