Monday, March 12, 2012

true solitude vs. false solitude

Photo by Thomas Merton
"There is no need to say that the call of solitude (even though only interior) is perilous.  Everyone who knows what solitude means is aware of this.  The essence of the solitary vocation is precisely the anguish of an almost infinite risk.  Only the false solitary sees no danger in solitude.  But his solitude is imaginary, that is to say built around an image.  It is merely a social image stripped of its explicitly social elements.  The false solitary is one who is able to imagine himself without companions while in reality he remains just as dependent on society as before -- if not more dependent.  He needs society as a ventriloquist needs a dummy.  He projects his own voice to the group and it comes back to him admiring, approving, opposing or at least adverting to his own separateness.

"Even if society seems to condemn him, this pleases and diverts him for it is nothing but the sound of his own voice, reminding him of his separateness, which is his chosen diversion.  True solitude is not mere separateness.  It tends only to unity."

- Thomas Merton, Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude, in the book Disputed Questions (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960) pp. 185-186


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