Hermit, Cure Thy Own Loneliness

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“I would like to voice loudly and clearly what might seem unpopular and maybe even disturbing: The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift.” ¬†– ¬†Henri Nouwen

When drafting this post, I didn’t know whether to end the title with a question mark or an exclamation point. Loneliness and solitude are two fundamentally opposed yet connected states of being. As I’ve written before, in order to grow, we must move from loneliness to solitude. But how does that happen? Is it possible for all people? And can loneliness ever be truly defeat?

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Spiritual Homelessness amid Material Wealth

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“Probably no word better summarizes the suffering of our time than the word ‘homeless.’ It reveals one of our deepest and most painful conditions, the condition of not having a sense of belonging, of not having a place where we can feel safe, cared for, protected, and loved.” — Henri Nouwen

Where do you belong? Do you have a place where you call home, in the true, complete childlike sense? Most of us, I would venture, suffer from this kind of homelessness — we do not have a place to belong. Nietzsche said that all we wear are masks. And that there is nothing behind the mask except a shadow that moves at infinite speed to another mask. In such a condition, can we ever come home? And what is preventing us from doing that?

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From Loneliness to Solitude to Community

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“All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”

The blessing and the curse of the human condition are the same: individuation. I am me, and you are not. You are you, and I am not. We each have our own internal life, a personal realm that is influenced and shaped by our experiences, feelings, family, and a host of other factors, but it is ours. In the words of The Truman Show, “You never had a camera in my head.” And no one ever does. In this sense, we are independent, but in this sense, we are also alone.

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