In quietness and confidence

William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942- 44 once said that religion is “what a man does with his solitude”. It sounds a strangely mystical thing to say, but Temple’s idea was that our true religion is revealed in where their minds wander – what occupies our thoughts during quiet times. While this may smack of “fruit inspecting” to some of our readers, the epigram is worthy of some contemplation in our noisy age. 

In his essay on “Membership”, C S Lewis warns that our secularizing culture is happy to push faith into the confines of personal life while at the same time providing endless, invasive distraction. He wrote that the “modern world says to us aloud, ‘You may be religious when you are alone,’ it adds under its breath, ‘and I will see to it that you never are alone.'” 

However Lewis also saw solitude as a pivotal precondition to forming friendships, which must seem counterintuitive to us hyper-connected Moderns. In a brief post on the topic, Michael Sacasas, author at the Convivial Society, finds the same link. Quoting political philosopher Hannah Arendt, Sacasas writes that solitude “is that human situation in which I keep myself company.” Being able to sit with our own thoughts, to process and meditate is necessary to creating anything. He argues that without solitude, we remain “strangers to ourselves”, unable to form bonds with others. 

With so many inputs available, Sacasas rues the way he can easily “defer solitude”. Anyone who has been carving out time to spend alone will no doubt testify that it is worth the struggle. But even more precious is what Mad Christians know – we are never just “keeping ourselves company” for Jesus said he would never leave nor forsake us. Although life can be busy, time spent in solitude, especially reading the Word of God is never without its reward.

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