When I deconverted from Christianity, I was always confronted by the question from seeming well-wishers, “How can you get through ______ (fill in chaotic state of choice) without faith in God?” I used to ask that question myself and believed heartily for a long while in someone else’s answer to it. When one goes through hard times, one naturally wants to turn toward someone or something to help them along with it. Many people claim to have the perfect answer. Many others’ answers to chaos are destructive, such as drugs, alcohol, addiction to more chaos, and blatant manipulation of circumstances. Not healthy by any means. Many others turn to God; or at least, their concept of God. This is the filter by which they see all of the world. They do not see directly but indirectly, “through a glass darkly” as it were (1 Cor. 13). It is a willful choice to retreat from the world and not see it clearly or to choose to see it with Jesus Christ in our way. I used to find comfort in this, mainly because confronting the real world was too painful to contemplate. I would retreat behind the convenient barrier of Jesus and the church and claim it was “for Christ” when really it was a refusal to face reality head on. When that barrier crumbles, one needs to find another source of comfort.
But what exactly is reality? Is it what we see or experience through our senses every day? Is it the thin veneer of roles and persona people project at us and that we project to others? Some see reality in the physical world, in Nature, but what is reality then for a blind person? A deaf person? How can all the things the privileged ascribe to the five senses and their definitions of beauty translate for those not so “privileged?” I read an Advent devotion yesterday that said we should take comfort in the Creation as God intended it. It advised me to go outside and appreciate the grandeur of God through meditation on what I could see. My first thought was, “What if you can’t see it?” How often do we take for granted all those things that bring us comfort, never realizing that we are putting barriers in the way of ourselves and in the way of others? What filters or barriers do we erect in order to “see” into this numinous spiritual world around us?
All good questions and all questions that every individual has different answers for. Just as every individual has a different “Christ” in mind and a different “God” in mind and yes, even a different “Goddess” in mind, I too have a different sense of what comforts and heals. I believe that each one of us contains all we need to comfort ourselves. I am certainly not saying that being with others, wanting their love and friendship, is wrong. Not at all. But relying on them completely for our peace of mind is always dangerous. Ultimately, we are our own means of comfort for we alone are all we have. All we need to do is stop flailing about outside of us and start grounding ourselves within. Easier said than done, right? How do we do that?
Through solitude. How scary solitude is to those addicted to noise and chaos and the madness of crowds! But solitude is necessary to all of us. I believe that those of us who cannot relax are addicted to the adrenaline rush that keeps us going on a daily basis. I also firmly believe that we can be addicted to relationships and that some of us have not ever learned to be comfortable in our own skins and in our own lives. The only way to do that is to be alone with ourselves more and relax into that. We need to detox from that relationship high we get when we are immersed in the crowd, however big or small, and listen to that small voice of our own that tells us what is true and right for us.
On Reality Sandwich, Bob Kull writes about this need for solitude in his article “The Value of Solitude.” Like many others who have chosen this path as a route to self-healing, he writes that “…the core of my loneliness is not separation from other people, but feeling disconnected from myself.” He further writes that self-reliance is learned and that deep satisfaction comes from knowing that we will be alright if left to survive on our own. If we allow ourselves the luxury of solitude, that is, enough solitude to find that out. And it’s not just survival that we have to relearn and find satisfaction in. We come to the core of our true selves in solitude and sometimes we may not like what we see. “We each have a social identity,” Kull explains, “a persona held in place by our interactions with other people. In solitude this persona begins to lose solidity and dissolve. The process is sometimes terrifying…Solitude challenges us to face our inner darkness and to discover that we are not identical to the conception we often have of ourselves.” How true this is! Only alone do we find we have time to think about who we really think we are. Only alone can we find and employ those things that comfort us from our own resources.
So, we are back to the filter question. How can we find our true source of survival and comfort if we use various filters to block our true way? What filters do we use on a daily basis and do we really need them? Do we try to find ourselves in the pages of ancient texts? Do we try to find ourselves in the natural world? Are we brave enough to be alone and look at ourselves without looking through a “savior?” Do we “focus on progress” as Kull writes or do we live and enjoy NOW without thought to past or future? Because that’s all that solitude is isn’t it? All it is is learning to enjoy NOW while we are in it and refusing to place those filters in front of us while enjoying it. Comfort comes when we disregard the mistakes of the past and allay our fears for the future and exist totally in our own skins and find that everything is all right, right now.
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