Posts Tagged ‘The Need for Solitude’


I have read more than once of how people in Europe, generally speaking, have a greater handle on relaxing and savoring the ambience of the moment compared to those of us in the USA.  The utter devastation of the big wars, something most Americans cannot even begin to comprehend, resulted in some cases in a determination to celebrate the moment whenever there was a moment of peace.

Most conservatives, of which I am one, decry the mentality that would sooner accept a government handout than look for a job.  But how often do we realize that there are also some Americans who drive themselves relentlessly, even ruthlessly, in a self-imposed and unnecessarily severe work ethic which precludes taking a time out for rest, relaxation, recreation, and soulful reflection.

It is one thing to struggle when necessary for SURVIVAL.  But quite another to drive and push in order to procure the myriads of material things that many of us have grown to believe we need and must have—items far beyond the basics of food, decent shelter, and adequate clothing.

To clarify, please understand that I really enjoy material things—and I have an abundance of them, although many are of the vintage shop variety purchased for a little more than a song:  things the trendy crowd would sneer at superciliously.  But I am not, and never have been, willing to sacrifice a lifestyle of savoring the moment in order to obtain myriads of “things”—and certainly not “high status”, flashy, grandiose things which mean absolutely nothing to me in contrast to a better way:  the timeworn, gracious, contemplative, and appreciative quality of life.

We Christians should understand and appreciate God’s mandate to “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Quite apparently, it runs against the grain of human nature to “be still”, and when it comes to noise I know I can contribute volumes.  But God calls us to a lifetime of poised stillness—an inner attitude of restful quiet while we work or socialize, and as we defend God’s truth in our words and actions.

Too frequently we leave the serenity factor to the New Agers.  They are great at focusing on tranquility and peace; but theirs is a false, demonic “peace”—a counterfeit of the true peace that only the One True God can give through His Infallible Word—and through quietly savoring each moment He gives us.

Our nation is in the midst of a vicious political/cultural season, with evils of immorality and the horrendous demon of anti-Semitism on the rise.  Frequently we must speak and act to project the truths on which we stand.  But to speak and act with an attitude of genuine inner serenity—that is the challenge, one of which I too often fall short.

There are times when we must (and will!) be visibly, viscerally angry.  For instance, I am livid over the Obama-via-Samantha Powers dissing of Israel at the UN on 12/23/16—a day of infamy—and I express this anger with every opportunity.  Yet I must cling to the understanding that God is in control; He must be the very center of my being as I speak, act, and even as I express my abject anger.

In view of national and global chaos, I pray I will never forget the better way—to be still and know that God is God.  For my husband and me, the “better way” translates to treasuring the simple joys:  time spent with family and friends, birds at the feeders, the drip-drip of melting snow from our rain gutters during a January thaw, these ever-stretching daylight minutes since the darkness of winter solstice, and ever-present scenes like the one above—a fantasia of ice and snow photographed from our patio.

Meanwhile, I’m wishing you a New Year blessed with tranquil islands of solitude and serenity, for savoring the better way.

Margaret L. Been, 1/22/17

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John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.”  In a sense, I understand this statement–as we humans are interconnected.  We do need to care for others, and we need others to care for us.  A top priority must be consideration, as we help others become the persons they were created to be.  To love and be loved are basic needs of every human.

Yet each of us is created to be unique–unlike any other person on earth.  Perhaps a better statement than “No man is an island” could be:  “Each person is part of an archipelago–a chain of islands.”

In her classic, GIFT FROM THE SEA, Anne Morrow Lindbergh shared wisdom gleaned from the creative solitude of an island vacation–metaphorically illumined by the characteristics of sea shells gleaned from the beach.  Lindbergh wrote:  “I feel we are all islands–in a common sea.”

Then the author went on to describe the frenetic pulsebeat of modern society, the constant togetherness, the din of radio and television, the compulsive chatter which dominates so many occasions where humans convene–all those distractions which contribute to the starvation of the soul and the negation of a rich inner life.  (Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote GIFT FROM THE SEA decades before cell phones!)

Every year, in the midst of Christmas and New Year’s gatherings, I’m struck by the reality of a vast potential danger:  not the danger of spending too much money, not the danger of eating too many rich foods, but rather the danger of indulging in non-stop society–either with family members or friends.

Yes, it’s good to gather!  Yes, we thrive on sharing.  But in order to remain spiritually intact–like the unique human islands that we were intended to be–we must step back from time to time and allow ourselves an occasional afternoon or evening apart from human company, even the company of those we love the most. 

I need to wihdraw regularly, for prayer and meditation on God’s Word.  Also, I thrive on solitary moments in which to immerse myself in a creative craft or activity.  I can knit with people around, but my poetry can only flow from days of solitude and reflection.  I sketch and paint best when no one is talking around me, or looking over my shoulder! 

Periodically, we need to distance ourselves from the subjective assumptions and presumptions of others, concerning whom we are and why we are here.  Only God knows our true identity.  We cannot live in the fullness of that identity without spending time alone with Him!  Indeed, we cannot even begin to truly love people–and be loved–unless we occasionally remove ourselves the society of others.  We need solitude as much as we need food and water–perhaps even more.  Food and water merely feed the finite body, while solitude feeds the immortal soul!

Yes, we are islands–an archipelago of islands–closely related, yet unique.  Only through solitude can we grow spiritually so that we’ll have something of eternal value to share in the society of our family members and friends!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

P. S.  Now we are 5:  5 blogs that is.  I love going from blog to blog–especially when it’s below zero outdoors and I’m stuck to my mouse.  Check out more reflections at:  http://northernview.wordpress.com/

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