solitude and community

[As we start to imagine and then experience an emerging “post-pandemic world,” we’ll all be renegotiating our relational lives. Perhaps this word from Parker Palmer will help]:

If we are to hold solitude and community together as a true paradox, we need to deepen our understanding of both poles. Soli­tude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people-it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others. Community does not necessar­ily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never los­ing the awareness that we are connected to each other. It is not about the presence of other people-it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.

– Parker Palmer, from A Hidden Wholeness

Social change and the inner life

In the din of the capitalistic, technological society, which bombs abroad and consumes at home, the basis for a way of liberation can be found in solitude. In solitude, in the depths of a man’s own aloneness, lie the resources for resistance to injustice. Resistance arises first from a perception of man’s suffering and from the assumption of one’s own responsibility to seek the transformation of a murderous system into a human society. The resister recognizes injustice and inhumanity for what they are and concludes, “I am responsible for either condoning their existence or struggling for change.” But for a man to take responsibility in public for his society, he must have the deeper integrity to take responsibility in solitude for his own inner life. Otherwise the only basis for social change will be personal alienation, and one’s act of resistance will be less a response to injustice than a flight from solitude.

– James Douglass, Resistance and Contemplation(1972)