November 14, 2011

The Silence of Solitude

"Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of life."
Dallas Willard

I gave this quote to a friend today, because it described what he was trying to say pretty well. He had been basically alone all weekend and so he had a lot of time to think about some situations in his life. This quote came to my mind immediately.

This is one of the reasons, I think, that people tend to avoid silence. It is very, well, stark, as Willard said. There are no words to hide behind in silence. When we are silent together,  we do not know what the other is thinking, but we feel stripped, bare, and unprotected by meaningless chatter. Silence alone can be almost more frightening. Honestly, it is much harder to lie to myself when I am in a silent room. It is almost as if when we stop talking, reality, truth and sometimes even clarity just seem to float up. It is as though we were trying to push them down under the water with words and music and sounds, but as soon as we let go, they rise to the top of our thoughts.

That is where this next quote connects in for me.

"The whole value of solitude depends upon one's self; it may be a sanctuary or a prison, a haven of repose or a place of punishment, a heaven or a hell as we ourselves make it."
John Lubbock

Some days, solitude is torturous. I sit alone, thinking, unable to stop for even a moment. Other days, solitude is a comfort, an escape, a time to refuel, collect thoughts and revive my heart. It is the silence that makes solitude that way. Solitude "strips" us, stands us before ourselves and reveals to us the innermost struggles that burden our minds. The deepest hurts, hardest pains surface in the pools of our thoughts when we are alone.

It is hard to be alone sometimes. But it is healthy to have solitude, time where we do throw ourselves upon the "stark realities of life," so that we can think and face our thoughts undisturbed. We must think and reflect, take walks alone and hide away every so often to gain perspective on life.

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