A story with a sting in the tail from the Jan/Feb 2012 edition of Third Way in an article on Solitude, loneliness and terminal distraction by Simon Parke.
The psychologist Carl Jung told a story of a young priest who came to see him. The man of God was restless, feeling the power was going out of his ministry. Jung heard him out and recommended that he spent one evening a week by himself. The priest agreed to this plan and left.
When he returned the following week, Jung asked him how his evening alone had gone. The priest said it went fine. He’d watched TV and enjoyed it. Jung pointed out to the priest that he was supposed to spend the evening alone, without the TV for company. He encouraged him to try the same thing again next week. The priest agreed and left.
When he returned the following week, Jung asked him how it had gone. The priest said it went fine. He’d read a book all evening and enjoyed it. Jung pointed out that he was supposed to spend the evening alone, without the company of a book. The priest became exasperated. How could he possibly spend the evening just with himself?
‘Well if you don’t want to spend the evening with yourself,’ observed Jung, ‘are you surprised that others don’t want to spend time with you?’
Why are we afraid of solitude?
Why does everyone reach for their mobile phone if they have to wait more than 2 minutes for a train? And once on the train, reach for the free newspaper to fill in the time until arrival? From what do we need such constant distraction?
What’s the difference between solitude and loneliness?
Why is so little made in our culture of the joy and creativity and refreshing nature of solitude?
Do you feel like a machine – relentlessly active, ceaselessly ‘productive’ and always on standby, never switched off?
Do you feel overwhelmed by what Parke calls the ‘restless negativity’ of the mass media that invades your inner self?
I’m going to try to have a time of solitude over the Christmas break. Maybe you can ‘join’ me and we can compare notes here afterwards!