Tuesday, March 31, 2020
The Temptation of Jesus in the Desert -- Daniel Bonnell
Well, it's not often I give thanks for being 65 but today I'm thanking God that I'm not 70 or older, given the government directive to septuagenarians-plus to hunker down at home. The good news? -- we're trying to save your life! The bad news? -- we're putting you in indefinite solitary confinement!
That's the way it feels for many people regardless of their age, and most of us have little practice being hermits. I admire those who are in their 70's, 80's, and beyond who are active in various ways, and aren't we constantly reminded of the value of social interaction in retirement. Isolation and loneliness are killers, we're told. Gathering for worship and "losing your life in order to find it" in intentional acts of communal kindness are vital.
So, put those notions on hold, and ponder what it means to be alone with our thoughts. Two weeks ago The Walrus magazine published a timely article by Michael Harris with the title
The Benefits of Solitude and the subteading "our society rewards social behaviour while ignoring the positive effects of time spent alone." https://thewalrus.ca/the-benefits-of-solitude/
Harris quotes from Richard Byrd's diary written during a six-month stay, all by his lonesome at the South Pole in crazily cold temperatures. Byrd nearly went out of his bird, but he also affirmed the benefits of solitude
Here were imponderable processes and forces of the cosmos, harmonious and soundless. Harmony, that was it! That was what came out of the silence—a gentle rhythm, the strain of a perfect chord, the music of the spheres, perhaps.It was enough to catch that rhythm, momentarily to be myself a part of it. In that instant I could feel no doubt of man’s oneness with the universe.
Ah yes, you're thinking, onesnes, schmunness, let me outa here! The unsavoury outcomes of physcial isolation are social isolation and loneliness. Yet I know from personal experience the value of solitude, even though it can make me uncomfortable.
In the years when I went to monasteries and convents for retreat time there was always an adjustment to the absence of regular routine and long periods of silence, often broken only by the rhythms of the worship offices of the day. In most places we were encouraged to accept the discomfort of quiet and being alone with our own thoughts. It was here that we could experience God, who has an extensive history of new beginnings with those who are willing to do engage in this way, if the bible is to be trusted. This season of Lent --remember Lent?-- commemorates Jesus' 40 day sojourn in the wilderness, which was downright devilish at times.
So, perhaps we'll come through this involuntary Lenten retreat with a meaningful reset for our spiritual lives. Let's pray that it isn't multiples of forty, for a whole lot of reasons.
Stay sane my friends!