Solitude is for criminals

In antiquity as well as in the Middle Ages there was an awareness of this longing for solitude and a respect for what it means; whereas in the constant sociality of our day we shrink from solitude to the point (what a capital epigram!) that no use for it is known other than as a punishment for criminals. But since it is a crime in our day to have spirit, it is indeed quite in order to classify such people, lovers of solitude, with criminals.

Sickness unto death, 64 (Hong)

I “googled” the word “solitary” and the only results I got were related to prisons. People who are being punished are removed from the general population as punishment. The only use our culture has for solitude is for punishment.

What of those who freely seek solitude? What of those who freely seek solitude for God? Are they misanthropists or religious fanatics?

I have become more aware that I need time alone for balance. Not doing yoga or chanting but time without other people to be “me”. Often I read (and drink tea) or simply close my eyes and allow myself to experience the world around me. Even the half an hour to say Morning and Evening Prayer by myself have become essential to my sense of balance.

But solitude is not the same as being alone. I can be with people and feel very alone – I have a general sense of “existential loneliness”. Solitude is something much more than the absence of people.

When I slow down and embrace the solitude, God speaks. And I return to the world with God’s strength to be a better “me”. In the solitude I hear God calling me to friendship with Him and with people He places in my life. Solitude is not an escape from the world but an openness to God. And whether I am with people or by myself I desire to be open to God in the situation. I need alone time for my mental health and I need solitude for my spiritual health.