Solitude has become a very important part of my existence. Let me re-phrase that: the seeking of holy solitude has become an increasing part of my daily existence. I feel a great change taking place within me, something far greater and more all-encompassing than anything I have experienced before; a change that makes all the prior changes seem rather petty and pathetic in the way they were never able to truly change me. After all, shouldn’t changes taking place within result in actual change without? How can one say they have been changed, transformed, converted, enlightened, or awakened when the time comes and you look back and within and see that little has changed after all that time?
My life has always been a noisy one; it is only recently I’ve come to realize just how utterly exhausted I’ve become at having my noisy self around as a day in/day out partner. I have talked too much and too loudly, listened too little and too softly, involved myself in too many areas that are little of my concern, and been too passionate about things that matter little in the grand scheme of things, to the end that my work life, home life, prayer life, and spiritual life seem a howling wilderness of my own making.
And when I find some precious hours away from work, what do I do? I try to fill it up. I read. I write. I cook. I ponder endlessly what I should read next, write next, cook next, ponder next. As if life itself were some kind of vacuum that needs constant filling and feeding. The difference is – and here’s where that “change” thing starts to come into play – I now see it for what it is and has always been, as if I have finally been shown a true reflection of my inner and outer life together in a mirror.
Tracey and I talked about this very thing today over dinner, how I seem to have lately tried to carve out for myself a greater distance between my usual interests, my friends back home, and my co-workers. She was concerned about a growing isolation on my part. My response was that there’s a vast difference between isolation – something external – and solitude – something internal. For example, if you turn off the phone and go “Brian Wilson” on people, you’re isolating yourself; if you’re creating a necessary distance between yourself and others for the purpose of allowing God to fill that space in whatever way He so chooses, that’s seeking holy solitude.
Like I told her, it’s almost like recognizing the necessity of reducing my “carbon footprint” by allowing the peace of God to work within so as to expand my own “spiritual footprint”.
The trick, as Brother Lawrence wrote so well about, is learning, and then incorporating into one’s daily regimen, the practice of the presence of God. You don’t have to become some desert ascetic (although at times I’ll admit this sounds quite appealing to me, but then what about work, or golf, or Mexican food, or surf music, or the Red Sox?). One need only strive to allow God the opportunity to transform you within so that by unknowing you will know, by not seeing you will see, and by not caring you will care. As the Psalmist writes, “Be still and know that I am God”. (Ps 46:10)
As I write these words, I realize the person I am is not the person I am becoming, and there will come a time when writing words to people who know me will be replaced by non-writing to those who no longer know me as I am now. My friends will always be my friends, but my relationships must change, and necessarily so. In the past I’ve often contemplated, pronounced, or openly questioned (some would say whined, and they might be right) what God was calling me to be; this all seems rather pointless to me now, as I wish to seek only the unknowing darkness of God’s holy solitude, aspiring only to be that whom God created, and unlearning those things that have caused me to knowingly and willingly place barriers between God’s will and my own.
While eastern religions and practices have much to say about this kind of thing, I’m more than willing to allow my drift towards Roman Catholicism to color this change in any way God wishes. It all now seems to be making sense as so many related and unrelated strands that have always been present in my life are being knit together into a new quilt whose final design I can’t even begin to imagine.