As regards ‘grappling’ with the world, in its present state, I will frankly confide to you two very personal vulnerabilities which would make living outside the cloister very difficult for me. First is my impression of the general formlessness of life in America today. So many people today live without a coherent language, symbol system, tradition, or rituals to give concrete expression to what they believe and so speak of seeking ‘happiness,’ ‘contentment,’ ‘light,’ ‘fulfillment’… The abstract formlessness of how Americans talk about matters of ultimate concern wearies me deeply.
The other is the loneliness that characterizes life in America today. Mother Theresa, visiting the U.S. for the first time in the 70s, said she had never seen poverty like what she saw here and she meant the loneliness of Americans. The breakdown and relinquishment of shared value systems and traditions, has left individuals adrift in a private search for God and meaning. This is a terribly lonely way to live. In America, loneliness can become like the blueness of the sky. After a while, people don’t think about it anymore.
Don’t surrender your loneliness
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My need of God
—Shams al-Din Hafiz
Thank you greatnesslieswithin, right this moment, these are just the words I needed to hear.
Man’s loneliness is, in fact, the loneliness of God.
Yes, my dear fourteenth. Thank you.
In the case of loneliness, we’ve often set up a barrier between ourselves and others. It might even be our quest for liberation—often human beings interfere with that. We isolate ourselves, then wonder why we feel lonely. The path is not to run out and start hugging everyone but to see, in concrete moments, what’s separating us, to come into contact with that barrier … We might in our approach to loneliness have to be patient through a long period of watching ourselves try to run away, hours and days, months and years. Finally the day comes when loneliness surfaces and we don’t do any of that. Our mindfulness joins the feeling, and there’s no thinking. We’re not for or against it. There’s just an innocent and naive seeing of it. To understand loneliness we have to commune with it; we have to let it blossom, tell its story and fade away.
Thought has created this sense of loneliness, this emptiness, because it is limited, fragmentary, divided and when it realizes this, loneliness is not, therefore there is freedom from attachment. I have done nothing; I have watched the attachment, what is implied in it, greed, fear, loneliness, all that and by tracing it, observing it, not analyzing it, but just looking, looking and looking, there is the discovery that thought has done all this. Thought, because it is fragmentary, has created this attachment. When it realizes this, attachment ceases. There is no effort made at all. For, the moment there is effort conflict is back again.