Gospel: Mt 21-33-46. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone
‘Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Never lose a holy curiosity’. Albert Einstein’s words - that would have resonated with the mothers and fathers of the desert and all the founders of spiritual movements who spent years in caves, and also  for some today, but by no means all, who have been shut down, shut off and shut up for so long because of Covid.
Any innovator or creative person needs to be a loner. Sometimes that becomes a pathological aversion to society and company, but it doesn’t really mean that. Rather, it is the ability to be with oneself without fearing the solitude that opens around you, at first like a force-field, but later as a noosphere, an alive web of loving silence and connection. The difference between exclusive and inclusive aloneness doesn’t need words or explanations. It is self-evident on first contact with it.
Perhaps it is above all the fear of solitude that makes meditation so problematical for so many at first and even for a long time. It’s not setting the time aside. It’s not the feeling of failure to ‘blank out the mind’. It’s not the sense that time could be better spent. But often, it is just the edgy inability to be alone with oneself. How many careers, marriages and communities have become ways of avoiding or denying this?
Being a loner, isn’t the best way to put it. Yet it might resonate with that phenomenon of a narcissistic society, where social contact is experienced excessively on social media, that is called ‘self-partnering’. ‘I don’t need you; at least not just now. I’ll let you know when I do…’ The solitude Einstein knew was different as his joyfulness, passion to communicate and his creativity suggest. Being alone gives you time. It shows you that time is there, and you don’t have continually to feel you’re wasting it or that there’s never enough of it to get on top of everything. If you receive the time that solitude gives you, you will get a taste for it and use it to search for the truth. ‘One Christ loving himself’ is how Augustine described the mystical body we are forming.
As I look at what I have just written, I’m wondering if it sounds out of touch with the life of constant demands that many people experience who suffer from a lack of the bare necessities of life. But I am not talking of life-style choices. Or if it suggests a contemplative life as it was conceived in the ancient world, the privileged option of the wealthy slave-owner. Actually, it’s the opposite of this. And being the opposite, it clarifies why meditation is universal. The solitude necessary for contemplation is not leisure, about having loads of time on your hands and people to wait on you. It is an interior awareness that external circumstances, however demanding, cannot destroy. It is the awareness that comes not with the quantity but the quality of time turning your attention wholly to the source and ground of being.
Once it has started to awaken, this awareness becomes stronger and develops that holy curiosity about where it might lead. Our life then, however we might prefer its conditions to be different or over, becomes by itself a search for the truth.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2021