During the limitations that have arisen during this unusual time of the Corona virus, there has been a prolonged experience of isolation and absence of physical contact and outside activity. The result is often a restlessness and loneliness. One challenge is to convert the loneliness to solitude, which create quite different experiences.
Solitude is the opportunity to be silent within oneself, and so to be in touch with what Merton calls our true self, beneath the masks and roles that are the more surface parts, yet in which most of our life is spent. Such solitude is distinct from but may be accompanied by loneliness. Loneliness is more of a felt absence, whereas solitude is more of a comfortable presence.
Paradoxically, such solitude is essential for any truly genuine relationship. This is so, I think, for two main reasons. One is that solitude is essential for being in touch with who we truly are, beneath all our masks and roles, our hurts and fears and hostilities. Only then can we relate to another in terms of who we are and not in terms of a projected image of ourselves. The other reason is that, in solitude, we recognize that somehow everything is connected; that we all flow from the universe and whatever is within and beyond that universe.
Perhaps, occasionally, if we allow at least a few moments of solitary silence, we may become aware of who we truly are, and how all things are somehow connected, and we may obscurely glimpse what love is and how it is possible, before we are drawn back into the demands and confusion of everyday life. And we may begin to see the wondrous in the ordinary.