Friday, March 16, 2012

Solitude & Community

The world seems so small. We are able to "connect" with old "friends" immediately. We are able to discover what they are reading or doing - who their friends are - what they are listening to - where they are eating - but when it comes down to it, not really know what is going on inside their lives. 

Even with hundreds of "friends" - folks can find themselves alone in the world - alone in their struggles - alone facing each day. Connections are often made with those who are facing similar struggles - a facebook group, a chat room, a support group. Many churches have discovered that support groups often bring folks in the doors that would not normally enter (i.e. divorce recovery, financial peace, MOPs, AA). Connecting with others in this way often brings growth and community. Connecting with others in this way often brings transformation. 

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." (Matthew 9:35) 

Looking at images of solitude - one often sees images of a person alone. What are your thoughts on solitude? Have you experienced solitude? "We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart...and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together...I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude." (Helen Hayes) 

"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 others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love." (Henri Nouwen)

Looking at Lea Kelley's painting, "Network of Solitude" below- 
what does it say to you about community and solitude? 

Where do you find yourself in the painting? Connected? Lonely? Experiencing solitude?


  1. Phil, this reflection takes me in more than one direction. My tendency is to embrace solitude when I can find it. In the painting, I see islands of aloneness, but access everywhere. Some "connections" bring life and delight; others are stressful and even unhealthy.

    On Wednesday evening, I went to hear Father John Dear, an activist for non-violence, speak at IHM. One of the most important themes he discussed, to me, was how a practice of non-violence must begin by cultivating inner peace -- practicing non-violence toward ourselves. Jesus hinted at this, too -- we are to love others as we love ourselves. But how can we love ourselves, if we don't know ourselves? And how can we know ourselves if we don't spend some time alone? In silence, even. Without the distraction of other people's voices (TV) or music that directs our moods or thoughts.

    Thank you for the painting. I think it is beautiful. Reflecting on art is a powerful way to look inside ourselves.

  2. Thanks for this ministry to my mind. We spent this morning with a good friend at Panera reading Henri Nouwen andt talking about friendship.

    Solitude is a part of my life every day. Not always by choice but usually beneficial.