I have written before about the way that suffering tends to make us feel alone, untethered. Varying degrees of genuine concern and platitude can appear in the midst of suffering, which can either create a deeper feeling of loneliness or at best stave it off a bit.
The bottom line is, though, that most suffering *is* in fact solitude. It can be shared, talked about, worked through, analyzed--and all this is the blessing of the human condition. We instinctively want and need to share our burdens; we then turn to faith as part of this because when there’s a path we have to walk alone, where no amount of sharing could make any of it bearable, faith becomes the walking stick, the sure guide, the sturdy flashlight in the middle of a storm. Some of our faith experiences are shared, but in most cases, suffering creates in the sufferer an acknowledgement of the soul--of its place in our experience as the go-between the earth we stand on and that place of beyond understanding.
Many times I have sought perspective through consultation with our dear Franciscans here in Athens, GA, and all of them have gently reminded me of this concept of being “alone with the Alone”--not always using those words, but wielding that concept of the meeting of our souls with God, the ultimate Alone, the Source. The concept of the Alone has (in modern times) various touch points, encompasses various religious beliefs, but is central to this idea that in the end, it’s just us and God. The mystery of that connection is what fascinates, what holds us back as we suffer, seeking to observe in ourselves healing and understanding from all that causes us pain, anxiety, and divides us at our core, body and soul.
In suffering often we find ourselves only about us--necessarily so, of course. There is a wound, and it needs tending. Being alone with the Alone is about trying to look away from the wound long enough to see that help does come from somewhere intangible, from a touch liminal, ineffable. When I have tended my wounds I found my only freedom in walking away from them aways, wading into the entire cognitive, emotional, spiritual intensity of the experience, and finding the quiet spot. The loneliest place. Then understanding that even in the darkest places, in the shadows, there are things of great beauty, dappled light. Goodness that sneaks into our lives, makes us suddenly aware of the blood running through our beating hearts, in that stillness, in the quiet when we feel our pulse in our neck and ears, and know we are alive.