There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

in search of nothing

I’ve spoken about the need to engage in solitude before here, but even if you felt the urge to do so, would you know a place where you could hope to find true quiet? Do such places exist in our locale that don’t require an hour-long commute each way? Funny you should ask. Have a look at this link: http://solitudehub.blogspot.com/

“Peace, be still”


  Patvano wrote @

The Katy Trail is a good option as well for people that like walking-solitude.

  Tree of Valinor wrote @

Solitude… What a luscious word to the introvert. You can tell how many of the 20+ people are introverts because no true introvert would share her secret solitary places with a horde of her peers.

Perhaps there are others besides me who admire that great icon of hermits, Emily Dickinson. When asked “if she never felt want of employment, never going off the place & never seeing any visitor,” she answered, “I never thought of conceiving that I could ever have the slightest approach to such a want in all future time,” and then added that she had not spoken strongly enough (Roger Lundin, Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief, 2004, p. 18).

OK, hopefully none of us are that antisocial, but I feel somewhat validated by her candor and her example. It seems like solitude always has to be excused or explained, and she’s not buying that. I’m sorry, but the example of Jesus praying in the wilderness doesn’t comfort me much, since he is also seen going to crazy lengths to reach out to people and help them when it’s most inconvenient for him. I still feel guilty.

Sometimes I go for comfort to special interest groups, just like we do for a lot of our sins. Jonathan Rauch’s “Caring for Your Introvert” (The Atlantic, March 2003) is a manifesto for my victimized self:

“In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. ‘People person’ is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like ‘guarded,’ ‘loner,’ ‘reserved,’ ‘taciturn,’ ‘self-contained,’ ‘private—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.”

OK, I feel better. I feel better that there are people like me. It lasts for about two seconds before I thinking about Christian community and selflessness and pouring myself out beyond my capacity like the little pot of oil of Elisha’s widow friend.

It’s especially painful because I agree entirely with the principle of community and hospitality. I admire families who invite strangers and outcasts into their homes. I am deeply, monumentally grateful for them, in fact, because they’ve saved my life at numerous times in my pilgrimage. I tell myself I want my family to be like that when I have one, but I don’t know if I’ll be capable of it.

I remember for a period of time when I lived overseas, my apartment was centrally situated, so it became the default gathering place for many of the other aliens, and I loved that fact. My happiest memories are of the fellowship we shared in our poor little moldridden fifth-floor dwelling.

However (how selfish and bad it feels to admit this) I had a powerful feeling of elation and freedom when my roommate left and I could ignore everyone and be alone when I wanted to be alone.

It is terrible to owe so much to people’s hospitality and still have such a strong desire for solitude. It seems to me that this is a sad little picture of how much I owe Jesus and how little I still want to be like Him because it’s painful and it’s inconvenient and it’s hard.

Maybe Lauren Winner, who seems to have something to say about everything relevant to us these days, can help with her thoughts on hospitality and introversion.

Does she help? I don’t really think so. Again, she’s absolutely right, and it softens the blow that her complete honesty validates my experience, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

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