Solitary Bird (solitarybird) wrote,
Solitary Bird

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Contemplating solitude

Had I joined a contemplative monastic order, the experience of solitude would be a one-size-fits-all proposition. For example, all the Carthusian fathers keep the same schedule and observe the same amount of time alone in the same context.

There is no such uniformity among Solitaries. Every Solitary writes his or her own Rule of Life, and the degree of solitude varies widely according to the situation of each individual. Solitaries are self-supporting, and most must therefore compromise the ideals of solitude and silence. Some Solitaries must work in the world at a 9-to-5 job, and are only able to observe "enclosure" evenings and weekends. Others must regularly leave their hermitage for other reasons. Some live with families and have no real enclosure at all.

Two days a week, I have little or no experience of physical solitude, as I must commute into New York City for work. I have also resumed regular attendance at my parish church on Sundays; it also is in New York City, so that amounts to another day of commuting.

I spend the vast majority of the rest of my time at home alone.

But there are still things that come up, and I am trying to find the right balance in coping with them. Errands are one. Although I can accomplish many errands online (such as ordering groceries for delivery) there are still errands that require me to leave the house. I think the best way to deal with these is to do as much as I can to minimize them, and when they are unavoidable, to try to maintain an inner sense of solitude and silence while doing what I need to do as expeditiously as possible.

I have, as yet, not given up singing in the Princeton Singers, although I probably should, even though it's only one evening a week. I just love it so much, and the prospect of not being a musician is rather grim.

Social contact is a little trickier. This weekend is a good example. I agreed to two meetings with friends, one to run an errand together and one for dinner. Tonight I am having dinner with friends. This kind of thing does not happen often, but even though such contacts are infrequent, suddenly I am sensitive about it, for the sake of appearances. Many Solitaries never socialize at all. I personally don't feel that these meetings have intruded on my vowed solitude. However I notice that other people are surprised that as a Solitary I agree to any social engagements.

I am wondering whether I need to rethink my willingness to have social contacts. Maybe I should be listening to the reactions of those around me.
Tags: solitude

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