Friday, April 1, 2011

The Secret of Solitude

I went on a date recently and realized just how frequently I do things on my own. My date asked me about activities I do in school, my job, etc. and I realized that pretty much everything I do, I do by myself. I go to campus, class, the store, running, to the gym, pretty much everywhere on my own. Why? That is a good question.

Sometimes, I think that the ability to be content being alone is a gift. Solitude gives one time to think, ponder, and reflect. Sometimes, being an island is what man needs. I think of Henry David Thoreau and his time spent at Walden Pond so that he might be able to face life. He said, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

We cannot, of course, live our entire lives in solitude. Interaction, relationships, communication are all a part of what it is to be human. Antoine de Saint Exupery wrote, "Happiness! It is useless to seek it elsewhere than in this warmth of human relations." I think, however, that some quality alone time is necessary to keep one's sanity. It is for me. When there are things on your mind, a big group of people doesn't usually help alleviate those thoughts. During times like these, one must take leave of the world and go into a private solitude, whether physical or mental.

Even when one is surrounded by people, they can be in solitude. I find that some of my best thinking and pondering occurs as I walk from class to class in the great shuffling migration of students. This sacred solitude is a treasure and a blessing.

The desire to be alone doesn't stem entirely from being somewhat anti-social. Some of you were probably thinking, "This kid is crazy! Does he not have friends?" Your thinking is wrong. Trust me. Most of the time, the desire to be alone comes from being around people who are challenging, close minded, and/or frustrating. It gives one time to reflect on what they hold dear, even when those around them feel otherwise.

The secret of solitude has not yet been discovered by many. Too often, we prefer to be plugged in rather than face ourselves in a moment of introspection. Solitude is sometimes frightening. It is then that we evaluate our lives, our shortcomings, our upcoming tasks, our responsibilities, obligations, hopes, fears, and aspirations. One can get lost very easily. One can also get discouraged.

In John 6, after feeding the multitude, Jesus Christ leaves when he perceives that the multitude wish to make him a king and "he departed again into a mountain himself alone." The Son of God took time to be away from people, to meditate, ponder, and be with his Father. Why don't we do the same? Think of the power we can gain, the understanding, and revelation that can come when we seek the Lord in solitude.