The Shattering of loneliness

“The experience of loneliness is as universal as hunger or thirst.  Because it affects us more intimately, we are less inclined to speak of it.  But who has not known its gnawing ache?  The fear of loneliness causes anguish.  It prompts reckless deeds.”  These words from the introduction to “The Shattering of Loneliness”, our current refectory book, introduce the reader to Fr. Eric Varden’s deep reflection on the experience of loneliness and how Christian Remembrance acts to heal our loneliness.  Fr. Eric is abbot of our daughter house, Mt. St. Bernard Abbey in Leicester England, Norwegian by birth, and a Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge.  In six chapters, Fr. Eric explores various biblical and literary sources to shed light on the deep sources of human loneliness and how, by cooperation with God’s grace, we might extricate ourselves from this especially painful human experience.  In one of the more thought provoking passages from the book, Fr. Eric suggests that our very being as human creatures is “logical” by which he means, reflective of the source from which we came and long to return, the divine Logos.  “Longing” is one of the most important words in this book.  Fr. Eric contrasts it with “desire”, the enjoyment of pleasure.  Longing is, rather, desire for what is yet far off and not attained to.  He writes: “From being in the garden of peace and sweet encounter, (Eden), the world became a laboratory of selfishness, violence and warfare.  Man’s soaring longing had been crushed by earthbound desire.  The ‘logical’ imprint of God’s image was wiped out.”  In response, God intervenes by sending his word into the world; into the death of loneliness we made for ourselves.  The book is, finally, a word of hope that God’s light and love has pierced the darkness of our isolation.  By the exercise of ‘Christian remembrance”, we set ourselves on the path back to God.