Redefining Loneliness

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author of the classic Gift From the Sea, speaks mysterious words about the human experience of loneliness, an uncomfortable situation, at best, and one from which we normally wish to escape! She says, however: “Loneliness is really never cured; it is only covered up, filled temporarily. And I am not so sure we should try so hard to cure it or cover it up. Loneliness, if one comes to terms with it, is one’s good daemon; out of it come one’s creative powers” (Against Wind and Tide, a collection of her letters and journals, p. 140).

A broken relationship—or no relationship at all—a disability that separates one from “normal” human beings, a death, a writing block, a feeling of having no identity or acceptability, the experience of being on the periphery instead of on the “inside”—these are but a few of those deep feelings or experiences that may cause unbearable loneliness. Because of our inability to deal with this loneliness, we often seek to fill up the void, cover up the pain, or in some way, escape that which is really inescapable. Quite unexpectedly, our author says, “We need loneliness and ought to protect each other’s precious loneliness!”

Lindbergh’s Gift From the Sea was born during the lonely hours of her retreat at the seashore. If we could but hunker down and simply be lonely, I wonder what creative action or expression might arise from within us? Or how could our country be different if we stopped filling up the airwaves and newsprint with words that simply cover up the deep loneliness which we currently suffer and which causes so much estrangement from one another?

Renée Domeier, OSB

Photo: Waves on Lake Superior, taken by Sister Nancy Bauer