What i should be doing is laundry. Last week's laundry is still sitting in the chair, and this week's laundry is about to join it there.
But, instead i need to encourage myself by revisiting the silent retreat i took over the weekend. Being in a quiet, stress-free, beautiful place makes everything seem possible. And then, it is back to the difficult and mundane cycle of life.
I read a book by Henri Nouwen, called Reaching Out: The Three Movements Of The Spiritual Life.
He starts out by talking about loneliness and keep in mind that this book was written in 1975. That makes it ever more delightful.
"Loneliness is one the most universal human experiences, but our contemporary Western society has heightened the awareness of our loneliness to an unusual degree...
The contemporary society in which we find ourselves makes us acutely aware of our loneliness. We become increasingly aware that we are living in a world where even the most intimate relationships have become part of competition and rivalry..."
He goes on to talk about the difference between loneliness and solitude and why solitude is important.
"Too often we will do everything possible to avoid the confrontation with the experience of being alone...
Our culture has become most sophisticated in the avoidance of pain, not only our physical pain, but our emotional and mental pain as well. We have become so used to this state of anesthesia that we panic when there is nothing or nobody left to distract us, when we have no project to finish, no friend to visit, no book to read, no TV to watch, no record to play...
And when we are left all alone by ourselves we are brought so close to the revelation of our basic human aloneness and are so afraid of experiencing an all-pervasive sense of loneliness that we will do anything to get busy again and continue the game which makes us believe that everything is fine after all. John Lennon says, 'Feel your own pain,' but how hard that is!"
Even in the 1800's, Henry David Thoreau understood the importance of solitude. Sometimes we idealize times past as simpler, and in many ways they were. But in the quote, he shows us how similar we all are and always have been.
"When our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation denigrates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or been told by his neighbor; and, for the most part, the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper or been out to tea, and we have not. In proportion, as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters proud of his extensive correspondence has not heard from himself this long while."
Solitude is more than just being alone.