I’ve always loved how Henri talks about Solitude and Community. In some ways it is because I am someone who needs a lot of it but also because I think that most people need more of it. I have always felt encouraged and challenged by the way Henri talks about Prayer and Spirituality in general.
Recently, I’ve been feeling the questions that he raises at the beginning of “Clowning in Rome”. “It is in the midst of this dark world that we are invited to live and radiate hope. Is it possible? …How can we live in home so as to give hope? And how do we find true joy?”
I think that I’ve often allowed myself be depleted of creative and loving energy by trying to be always present to other people and always thinking that I ought to be able to nurture or meet other people’s needs.
Henri talks about how that type of thinking is dangerous and that we should think of our “fellow human beings not as partners who satisfy our deepest needs, but as brothers and sisters with whom we are called to give visibility to God’s all-embracing love.” When we take the time to be alone we realize that community is less something we make than something we receive.
Henri writes, “Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other. It is a fallacy to think that we grow closer to each other only when we talk, play, or work together… in solitude our intimacy with each other is deepened… If we base our life together on our physical proximity, on our ability to spend time together, speak with each other, eat together, and worship together, life quickly starts fluctuating according to moods, personal attractiveness and mutual compatibility, and thus becomes very demanding and tiring…gentleness, peacefulness, and the inner freedom to move closer to each other, or to withdraw from each other, are nurtured in solitude.”
He talks about how we find our identity in solitude and it allows us to reach out to others because it calls us to deeper love. It isn’t that we become hermits but, that we have space to recognize that other people can never completely fulfill us. He talks about solitude with others and I like that idea: “Silence and solitude do not attract us when we are busy and preoccupied. Thus we have to structure some short periods of time when we can be alone, together. Being alone with God for yourself is a very different experience from being alone with God as part of your life together.” I think that is a beautiful idea and I want to continue thinking about it for a while.