The Act of Solitude

I like how Catholic monk and author Thomas merton-jean-jacketMerton describes “solitude” as a verb – an active verb – that one engages in, rather than stumbles over. I need more of it. How about you?

Solitude as act: the reason no one understands solitude, or bothers to try to understand it, is that it appears to be nothing but a condition. Something one elects to undergo, like standing under a cold shower. Actually, solitude is a realization, an actualization, even a kind of creation, as well as a liberation of active forces within us, forces that are more than our own, and yet more ours that what appears to be “ours”.

As a mere condition, solitude can be passive, inert and basically unreal: a kind of permanent coma. One has to work at it to keep out of this condition. One has to work actively at solitude, not by putting fences around oneself but by destroying all the fences and throwing away all the disguises and getting down to the naked root of one’s inmost desire, which is the desire of liberty-reality. To be free from the illusion that reality creates when one is out of right relation to it, and to be real in the freedom which reality gives when one is rightly related to it.–Thomas Merton

Learning to Love, Journals Volume 6, edited by Christine M. Bochen (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997, pp 320-321)

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