Friday, February 5, 2010

Alone versus lonely

"A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; ... if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free." [Schopenhauer, "The World as Will and Idea," 1818]

Solitude is a wonderful thing when one is centered and feeling well about oneself. Solitude allows time to reflect and to sit with feelings - even the unpleasant ones - so that healing and integration can occur. But solitude's joy can, in my life at least, so easily turn to loneliness like milk turning in the refrigerator so that something that was wonderful becomes something that is hard to choke down.

I wonder about being alone and being lonely. Being alone does not bother me and sometimes I need it. Being lonely is a very different thing and can happen just as easily when I feel isolated in my farmhouse as when I am in a group - but unhappy being there.

The Rublev Icon (above) reminds me that I am never alone and that loneliness is something which I bring to the table of life and that when I do, it rarely goes well for me. Loneliness is a choice even if that "choice" is the sum of many choices which repell the people in our lives.

It can be hard living out in the countryside as I do. My dog makes it possible as do my friends. Friends visit and they call and that keeps my living "alone" feeling serene while keeping "loneliness" at bay - most days.

God lives in a constant state of joyful and loving community as three in one - three persons in one God. As hard a concept as that is to understand, it is comforting to me to be invited into the love and life of a God whose existence is at a table with a chair welcoming me and all of humanity to it. Even when I feel lonely, this image reminds me that the feeling is just a feeling and will go as fast as it came.

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