It’s been vaguely pleasant – being on the outside and not getting too embroiled in the thick of things. It’s liberating in a way because now, the borders do not confine me. It’s no longer about where I can go within the borders; it’s about where I can go except for within the borders. That means the rest of the world is open to me. And the world is a much bigger place.
It’s not easy to be an exile. It’s painful to feel alone and rejected; to be ‘apart’, as opposed to being ‘a part’. Loneliness is a vortex that sucks us deep within ourselves, into our own bitterness and resentment. But if we can get past that – and that’s a breathtaking effort – if we can look beyond ourselves, then just for a moment, we see not a void, but a galaxy. We get a sense of the Infinite. And that is both humbling and awe-inspiring.
It takes solitude to experience that kind of reverence. Emptiness is a space in which the infinite exists. And it’s not until we feel that emptiness deep within us, that we can truly appreciate the infinity within us. That I think, to answer the question I once asked, is the difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is a sense of emptiness. Solitude is a sense of the infinite.
But it’s not a fixed position. It’s not a Nirvana that we can attain. We vacillate constantly between both ends. Loneliness flows seamlessly into solitude, and vice versa. It’s always a struggle to look beyond ourselves. It’s a struggle to see God amidst our suffering. It’s a struggle to realize that God is with us even though we cannot sense Him. That’s the Passion that we as Christians are called to enter into. That’s the Passion of Jesus.
The danger, however, of being on the outside for too long is that after a while, you become an outsider. So it begs the question: how long should I stay on the outside? There must be a balance. Because as Fr David says, it’s not merely about how many keys on the piano you have; it’s more about the skill you have to make music out of those keys. It’s not just about how much of the world outside that you can explore, but how much freedom you have within the borders.
So… I’ll come back – hopefully, stronger and freer than before. I’ll end off by putting a spin of Ralph Emerson’s quote – “Though we travel the world over to find the [divine], we must carry it with us or we find it not.”