Friday, September 19, 2014

A Mighty Fortress is our Solitude

In his The Weakness of God, John Caputo knows of only one kind of solitude, the solitude of tragedy, the solitude of the present (pp. 245 ff). Anyone who has fished the surf at dusk or dawn, anyone who has walked alone into a meadow or wood (with or without a brush and canvas), anyone who has practiced a musical instrument, anyone who has listened to music, anyone who has read a novel, anyone such as these souls would find Caputo's solitude terribly impoverished. Perhaps my difficulty with his version of solitude has mere semantic dimensions, because despite the bleakness of such solitude, it remains open to the event of healing through the 'other.'

I maintain the distinction between solitude and loneliness, both expressions of what being 'alone' means. When one is alone with oneself in joy and comfort, one is enjoying solitude. When one is alienated from oneself, terrified by the enormity of being alone in unredeemed time and space, one suffers from loneliness. Though he never says it, I imagine Caputo would agree that the 'tragedy of solitude' resolved by the presence of the other, the healing, consoling presence of another human creature, transforms loneliness into a shared space of joyful solitude, a being alone together.

This is what heals the dehumanization of illness, the alienation from a past of health. Healing sometimes brings the past into the present, often through the touch of human consolation. Indeed, Caputo's notion of forgiveness is all tied up with the arrival of the other, of the other's presence at the bedside, which sanctifies both time and space.

Being present to suffering does not split the burden, the very mass of pain, and share it. That would be magic; yet the burden is forgiven, lightened, at least for a time, a moment, a moment shared in the time of life in extremis. Such a forgiveness of time, a giving of time with less suffering, of more time less burdened with pain, is the healing of consolation, of presence, of witness to the profoundest of all human acts, the act of dying. Alone, together, the laying on of therapeutic hands and the speaking of healing words build a fortress around the sacred space of something so profoundly human.

No comments:

Post a Comment