We need each other, and it’s a good thing to be with your friends and family and to meet new people. But I believe it’s good sometimes to be alone. That’s a really, really hard thing to accomplish today. Even if no one is about, if you have the internet, you are not alone.
That’s why when I read this today on www.sacredspace.ie, I tried to image what this is like. I’ve written about Skellig Michael before here and here and here. What do you think? Is it easier to find God alone or with others? My thought is that it depends on your personality. But even extroverts can benefit from some quiet time.
Solitude and Mystery
Several times I acted as a tourist guide on a tooth-shaped rock off the south-west coast of Ireland. Called Sceilg Michael, St Michael’s Rock, it towers 800 feet above the sea, is 13 miles from the mainland, and can be accessed by boat only on calm days.
From about the 6th to the 12th century it was the home of a small colony of monks, perhaps no more than twelve at a time. Their austere Rule has not survived. Removed from nearly all the secondary issues which preoccupy us, they spent their days in reciting the Divine Office, in personal prayer and in eking out a frugal existence from a small garden and a turbulent sea. Surely also they found God in contemplating the waves and the birds, the moon and the stars. A few names survive, seven or eight over six centuries. The few graves are unnamed. What these anonymous men underwent, in order to pray for all humankind – including ourselves – is beyond our imaginings.
It was exhilarating to live in so improbable a place. Solitude brought me into a sense of wonder at the beauty of nature by day and night. I found myself very alive there, and grateful, even when conditions were impossible. I experienced no great revelation. I met my old self, with its old feelings and follies. Surely the monks did too. Yet we both met Mystery there, they under one form and I under another, and I often crave to return.