Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Man's loneliness is the loneliness of God (solitude)

"The solitary condition also has its jargon and its conventions: these too are pitiful.  There is no point in consoling one who has awakened to his solitude by teaching him to defile his emptiness with rationalizations.  Solitude must not become a diversion to itself by too much self-justification.  At least allow the lonely one to meet his emptiness and come to terms with it: for it is really his destiny and his joy.  Too many people are ready to draw him back at any price from what they conceive to be the edge of the abyss.  True, it is an abyss: but they do not realize that he who is called to solitude is called to walk across the air of the abyss without danger, because, after all, the abyss is only himself.  He should not be forced to feel guilty about it, for in this solitude and emptiness of his heart there is another, more inexplicable solitude.  Man's loneliness is, in the fact, the loneliness of God.  That is why it is such a great thing for a man to discover his solitude and learn to live in it.  For there he finds that he and God are one: that God is alone as he himself is alone.  That God wills to be alone in him.

"When this is understood, then one sees that his duty is to be faithful to solitude because in this way he is faithful to God.  Fidelity is everything.  From it the solitary can expect truth and strength, light and wisdom at the right time.  If he is not faithful to the inner anonymity and emptiness which are the secret of his whole life, then he can expect nothing but confusion."

-- Thomas Merton, Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude, in the book Disputed Questions (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960) p. 189-190


  1. I cannot tell you, beth, how much this particular passage has meant to me. I will stay with it for a while at least. I have been in a darkish phase lately, a kind of shadowland. I recall an exercise I went through with my director last summer to attempt to find the root of this great sadness that afflicts me now and then. At bottom, it turns out is a sense of what I call existential aloneness. This passage helps me deal with that as I attempt to explore that intense loneliness.

  2. I know what you mean, Barbara. I think that this is also my "favorite" (if it can be called that) of all of these . These are the words that speak to me most intimately.


Lax photography

Robert Lax (1915-2000), Untitled, 1970s; black and white photograph, 11 x 17 inches; Robert Lax Archives. St. Bonaventure University ...