When you have shut the doors and darkened your room, remember never to say that you are alone, for you are not alone, but God is within, and your genius is within.

Epictetus, in Discourses

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Dedicated to my friend Jeff who has made the journey.

When monk Thomas Merton moved from his religious community to a hermitage to live alone, according to his colleague and friend Basil Pennington he sometimes referred to himself as “just a man living in a ‘cabin’ in the woods.”

How interesting.

In the great, concise book entitled The Rule of Benedict, which lays out the details of living in a monastery, Benedict makes this point: before you can live by yourself, you must learn to live with others.

How intriguing.

When Merton went to live by himself he noted he lived a life without care, but not without caring.

Indeed, living alone he was able to focus on the world and dig more deeply into himself and his relationship to the world – its beauty and its needs.  He lived more deeply and more engaged in the world, without the interruptions life with others so often brings, without the demands of organization and the rituals that accompany “organized” existence.

It is safe to say from his writing, that Thomas Merton had learned to live, and how to live with others.

Living by himself was, then, a time when his spiritual existence solidified, became more prominent, a daily and momentary experience, an immersion into God and life at-large in all of its details, wrinkles, gradations, majesty.

By himself he became a more concentrated spiritual being.  For he had made the necessary excursion within while among others -and now it was time to be with God personally and pass on through that so he might connect more deeply with the others and the world, again – but alas – anew.

Life alone for Thomas Merton meant knowing that “(E)verything is together in God.”

Everything together in God.  Unity.  Clarity.  A journey made.  An end discovered. The artificial and man-made reduced to size, left, dissolved – now freedom come to be, freedom to fully be.

Having made the journey one is never alone so much as with God and housed in one’s created identity – and the genius offered to all, but ignored by most.

Many remain with others, yet less than whole.

Shalom.

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