Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Solitude brings freedom

I'm still reading The Spirit of the Disciplines right now, by Dallas Willard. I'm about 2/3rds of the way in, and he's just now getting to what the disciplines of the spiritual life are. He breaks them up into disciplines of abstinence and disciplines of engagement. The first of the disciplines of abstinence is solitude. He believes solitude to have "primacy and priority among the disciplines." He points out how it frees us to connect again with the reality of God's rule in the world:
"The normal course of day-to-day human interactions locks us into patterns of feeling, thought, and action that are geared to a world set against God. Nothing but solitude can allow the development of a freedom from the ingrained behaviors that hinder our integration into God's order."
And as painful as it may be, solitude also allows us to get a healthy account of ourselves, in all our messiness. Solitude frees us to be authentic. He quotes Louis Bouyer as saying this:
"Solitude...serves to crack open and burst apart the shell of our superficial securities. It opens out to us the unknown abyss that we all carry within us...[and] discloses the fact that these abysses are haunted"
It also brings freedom to have meaningful conversation:
"Henry David Thoreau saw how even our secular existence withers from lack of a hidden life. Conversation degenerates into mere gossip and those we meet can only talk of what they heard from someone else. The only difference between us and our neighbor is that he has seen the news and we have not."
Go and be free.

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