Our Own Essential Solitude

This book has been about community . . . But when all is said and done, each of us, and in the deepest part of our self, has to learn to accept our own essential solitude.

In each of our hearts, there is a wound – the wound of our own loneliness, which hurts at moments of setback and can be even more painful at the time of our death. Death is a passage which cannot be made in community. It has to be made completely alone. And all suffering, sadness and depression is a foretaste of that death, a manifestation of our deep wound which is part of the human condition. . . . We can experience moments of communion and love, of prayer and ecstasy – but they are only moments. We quickly find ourselves back in the incompleteness which is the result of our immortality and limitations and those of others. . .

Even the most beautiful community can never heal the wound of loneliness that we carry. . . . Those who enter marriage believing that it will slake their thirst for communion and heal their wound will not find happiness. In the same way, those who enter community hoping that it will totally fulfil and heal them, will be disappointed. We will only find the true meaning of marriage or community when we have understood and accepted our wound. It is only when we stand up, with all our failings and sufferings, and try to support others rather than withdraw into ourselves, that we can fully live the life of marriage or community. It is only when we stop seeing others as a refuge that we will become, despite our wound, a source of life and comfort. It is only then that we will discover peace.

–  Jean Vanier in Community and Growth

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