The value of being alone

The value of being alone November 11, 2010

Today I did something I rarely do. I commuted. Working from home as I usually do, my daily travel often involves merely walking from my bedroom to the spare room we use as my office. From the moment I wake up, my head is usually full of emails I need to answer, phone calls I must make, jobs I must do. I have the privilege also of having a large and at times noisy family to spend my time with. My mind is usually full of a constant barrage of information to process, decisions to make, things to write or say.

As Chrisitians, at one level we know the world of constant mental noise cannot be quite right. And so, quite rightly, we add what can sometimes feel like yet another task to burden our weary minds: the quiet time. And yet, do we ever simply slow down and do NOTHING except perhaps to quietly meditate or pray.

In our business and bustle we loose the value of being alone. On the train today I couldn’t help notice there were two groups of people. Those, like me, trying to fill their commute with another task. Perhaps reading a book, or furiously typing emails. Then there were those who were just staring into space. Many times I have looked at such people with pity. How boring I might dissmissively think. Or even, what a waste of the valuable time we have been given.

And yet.

Today I found myself thinking that just maybe spending that time alone albeit surrounded by people might actually not be such a bad idea sometimes. Mental space to just think is actually precious and life giving. How many solutions to problems that has been bugging people just popped into peoples minds surrounding me on the train?

For so many of us today we are very rarely alone. Indeed my wife often claims that for mums of young children like her, even an opportunity to visit the rest room uninterrupted by demands from a little one is a rare priviledge much appreciated.

Jesus spent much of his time alone. He often withdrew from the crowds. Many of us feel awkward when we do the same. It is as though we don’t enjoy our own company. We would perhaps do well to learn to just hang out and relax with no one else around. It is something that my frequent travels has taught me to feel comfortable with.

Until we are comfortable just being alone, how can we learn to commune with the one who makes sure we are never truly alone? Jesus did not just withdraw to empty his mind or to rest. He did so to engage with his father. I get the feeling as I write this, that to properly connect with God in prayer, many of us, myself definitely included, actually need to learn first to disconnect from the constant demands of others that technology ensures follow us everywhere.

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