Tom and I recently read through The Way of the Heart by one of my favorite Catholic authors, Henri Nouwen. I’ll paraphrase some of his thoughts:
“Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. The world has distorted the idea of solitude. It has come to mean privacy, a place where I can’t be bothered, or a place to recharge our batteries. Solitude, however, is not a private therapeutic place. It is a place of conversion, a place where the old self dies and the new self is born. It is the furnace in which transformation takes place.”
Solitude, for me, is indeed a way of “doing” that points to “being.” It is not merely a place of absence, but rather it is a presence. It’s a place where I become present to my real self, to my real motivations, to the world around me, to God, and to myself in God. It is a place where the heart of stone is turned into a heart of flesh. It is the painful, liberating, and joyful process of confronting my own nothingness and “dis-humanity” in the embracing, grace-filled presence of God. It is a place of becoming.
I’m definitely in a stage of life where there is never enough quiet with three little wild animals running circles around me all the time. I do love it though. But even in the midst of a busy, noisy life, there is a way of BEING silent enough and still enough to let go of illusions and become truly present.