Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The English word solitude means "to be alone". It is derived from the Latin solus, which means "only".  It is also related to the Latin word for "sun", since the sun is the "only" source of daylight the earth has.
This connection offers some interesting ideas to consider about solitude, the experience of singular being.
The sun provides light because of the physics of the universe.  Gas, by way of gravity, is pulled together and as more is gathered, the gravity increases. It reaches a point at which there is such great pressure, the gasses super-heat and ignite, producing light. It is "alone", yet visible and influencing planets and anything else caught in its gravity-well. We are in orbit around the "only", but we also derive life from the "only". The "only" is essential to our existence. It's no surprise that the "only" is central to our thinking and living and sense-making. We use what appears to be its movement to describe the beginning and ending of days, events, and eras when we speak of "the dawn and dusk". The "only" is identified as a god in many belief systems.
It is an unusual linguistic lineage that the "only" (solus) led to our word "solitude". It makes sense, but there certainly were other words and concepts that could have been used to identify solitude.  That solus is used clearly separates solitude from loneliness, isolation, separation, even or perhaps especially independence. In truth it is our interdependence that is dependent on our solitude.
The linguistic inheritance of the word solitude indicates something powerful and essential to the experience and engagement of solitude. To be in solitude is not to be isolated or cut off so one has no influence or impact. Instead it is to acknowledge the one-of-a-kind gravity-well each person creates through his or her being.
In addition, each of us is a solus, the "only" us there is. There is no other like the one you are, with your unique light shining. It is our solitude, our "only-ness" that holds certain things in orbit, and brings order and balance to our solus system.
If we neglect, ignore, or otherwise discredit our solus, then chaos results, as the gravity of an "only" is devalued. The sun might as well be devalued. To disregard the solus of another is an act of violence against the cosmos. Each person is a star, shining in the way only he or she is able. Just as we draw light and life from the sun, there are solitudes (individuals) in our lives from which we draw light and life. Without the sun, the "only", we wouldn't exist. Likewise, through the existence and well-being of others in our lives, whose uniqueness is essential, we are each a unique "only". The wonder is that it is the "onli-ness" of each that any "only" can be. We are a community of onlys, each dependent on every other only. When the only-ness is lost, through social pressure to conform, then our own only-ness is diminished and threatened.
Solitude, therefore, isn't about being alone, although being alone helps many in the work of solitude, which is the discernment and practice of being you. It is a way of disclosing the blessing we each receive and are; a way of blessing all the other "onlys".

© 2016 Stephen Carl

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