i've been (slowly at first) voraciously reading through 'a hidden wholeness' - parker palmer's new book (i got an advance reader's copy off ebay) and YOU'RE GONNA LOVE IT!!
here's a taste that made me gasp out loud this morning:
In a circle of trust, we practice the paradox of "being alone together," of being present to one another as a "community of solitudes." Those phrases sound like contradictions because we think of solitude and community as either-or. But solitude and community, rightly understood, go together as both-and. To understand true self - which knows who we are in our inwardness and whose we are in the larger world - we need both the interior intimacy that comes with solitude and the otherness that comes with community.see, told you it was wonderful!!
When we split solitude and community into an either-or and act as if we can get along with only one or the other, we put ourselves in spiritual peril. The theologian Deitrich Bonhoeffer warned us about this risk in his classic Life Together. "Let [the person] who cannot be alone beware of community. Let [the person] who is not in community beware of being alone."
Bonhoeffer's warning is based on two simple truths. We have much to learn from within, but it is easy to get lost in the labyrinth of the inner life. We have much to learn from others, but it is easy to get lost in the confusion of the crowd. So we need solitude and community simultaneously: what we learn in one mode can check and balance what we learn in the other. Together, they make us whole, like breathing in and breathing out.
But exactly how solitude and community go together turns out to be trickier than breathing. When we say we are in solitude, we often bring other people with us: think of how often our "solitude" is interrupted by an interior conversation with someone who is not there! When we say we are in community, we often lose track of true self: think of how easily we can forget who we are when we get entangled in group dynamics.
If we are to hold solitude and community together as a true paradox, we need to deepen our understanding of both poles. Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; it means never living apart from one's self. It is not about the absence of other people - it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others. Community does not necessary mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other. It is not about the presence of other people - it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.