“When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude;
How potent a mere image of her sway”
With a poets mind, heart, and gift for words, William Wordsworth, in his opus “Intimations of Immortality,” gives expression in the 18th century to a reality that characterizes much of our lives today. It is a timeless truth he pens when he states that we are parted from our “better selves” by the business and pleasures of the “hurrying world.” The often frenetic nature of our lives can cause us to lose touch with our soul, the deep, sacred center of ourselves.
The solitude Wordsworth writes about is not isolation or separation from others, but a restful grounding in what former United Nations Secretary General and mystic Dag Hammerskjold refers to as a still point surrounded by silence. When we have too long been parted from this soulful dimension of ourselves, the words we speak begin to sound like noise, and the actions we undertake can feel chaotic. In this condition of inner-alienation, we lose focus, become scattered, and can experience a lack of meaning and motivation – did someone say depression?!
The conversations and interactions we must be engaged in to survive and thrive in the world can, if we are out of touch with our soul, cause us to teeter on the brink of a psychological/spiritual malaise. The stillness and quiet that are the correctives for this condition are often difficult to abide, for noise and activity are the way we avoid being with ourselves – the very “solitude” necessary to maintain our sanity in a crazy busy world.
To be silent and still, even for a short time, requires discipline and a degree of self-acceptance despite our imperfections. But we do not have to spend long hours being silent and still to become spiritually healthy, for the “mere image of her sway,” the very thought of solitude’s sweetness, can be salve for our souls.