Posted by: Dr Churchill | December 23, 2014


What is Loneliness?

Intelligent folks are lonely.

But not in the pathetic way of hopeless lonesome doves.

We are loners because we seek wisdom and that is one solemn path.

We are seekers.

And that is by definition a lonely job.

We enter solitude, by choice.

We are noticers…

And as we enter the dark woods of solitude – we are somehow liberated from loneliness.

Yes, it is in this space of solitude and time of equanimity, during which we lose our loneliness…

We go to the cathedrals of the woods like reverential pilgrims and seek enlightenment.

We go deep into the dark woods, same way as I visited the Muir Woods of Northern California the other day.

I went there and spend my whole day in reverence and joy, walking quietly in the solemn woods on a wet and obliging sky day.

But I didn’t go into the dark woods like Dante did. I went on my way to the sea. I went there wholehearted on my way to the great Pacific ocean. The new ocean of my Life… I went and I found myself there.

I found myself after a little while — while climbing and walking, lost in the creeks and craggies of these ferociously green woods. I got lost and there I found myself in the quiet solitude. I found myself in the shadow of the big trees. I found myself in the essence of the wilderness.

I found myself in the sounds of nature.

I found myself in my solitude.

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources. In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.

The return from such humanizing solitude, can be disorienting: From the order of nature we return to the order – and the disorder – of humanity. From the larger circle we must go back to the smaller, the smaller within the larger and dependent on it. One enters the larger circle by willingness to be a creature, the smaller by choosing to be a human. And having returned from the woods, we remember with regret its restfulness. For all creatures there are in place, hence at rest.

In their most strenuous striving, sleeping and waking, dead and living, they are at rest. In the circle of the human we are weary with striving, and are without rest.

Indeed, so deep is our pathology of human striving that even Thoreau, a century and a half ago, memorably despaired: “What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?”

But the value of such recalibration of our connectedness in solitude, is that it reminds us of the artist’s task, which is to connect us to one another. We return to the subject of despair and pride, which serve to separate and thus betray the task of art and artist alike…

The field must remember the forest, the town must remember the field, so that the wheel of life will turn, and the dying be met by the newborn.

Seeing the work that is to be done, who can help wanting to be the one to do it?

But it is pride that lies awake in the night with its desire and its grief.

To work at this work alone is to fail. There is no help for it. Loneliness is its failure. It is despair that sees the work failing in one’s own failure. This despair is the awkwardest pride of all.

But the most urgent point has to do with the immense value of “thoroughly conscious ignorance” and of keeping alive the unanswerable questions that make us human:

There is finally the pride of thinking oneself without teachers.

However the teachers are everywhere.

What is wanted is a learner.



Am in California’s Oakland community and in the Southern Bay area these days and there is so much ignorance all around, it makes me wanna … teach.

Teach, all over again.

Cause I recall that in ignorance there is hope.

So we rely on ignorance.

And as the old Zen koan goes:

“It is ignorance the teachers will come to.

They are waiting, as they always have, beyond the edge of the light.”

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