… by Katia Chausheva [laila]

Ξ December 14th, 2006 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Arts, Photography |

Katia Chausheva

    Moral Loneliness

    Ron Rolheiser OMI
    June 24, 2001

    In her book, Guidelines for Mystical Prayer, Ruth Burrows makes an interesting comment on Therese of Lisieux. Looking at photographs of her, Burrows points that there is a quality of separateness, of being alone, that Therese's face always exhibits, even when she is in a group. Something always set her apart, even though she was a very sociable person. There was a loneliness inside her that nothing quite ever erased.

    Robert Coles makes essentially the same comment about Simone Weil and coins an apt term to describe this quality. He suggests that she suffered from 'moral loneliness':

    "Some years ago, I wrote a book on loneliness, suggesting that there are four essential kinds of loneliness: alienation, restlessness, rootlessness, and psychological depression. Were I to write that book today, I would add another category, moral loneliness. What is this?"

    Loneliness lies at the very centre of our lives. Feeling lonely, restless, and set apart isn't something we experience at the edges of our lives. It's a fire that burns at the heart. We aren't restful beings who occasionally get restless, but restless beings who occasionally experience some rest. And this is true at every level of our being: body, psyche, soul, sexuality. We are perennially restless, driven, hungry, longing creatures, never perfectly in union with others.

    In this life, we never fully overcome this. Always we are somewhat alone, separate. Sometimes this restlessness is more inchoate, we can't really name what we need or want, and sometimes it is so painfully focused that it becomes an obsession. Always it is there.

    Today it is all too easy to believe that, at the end of the day, this is simply about sexual hunger. Powerful voices insist that what we're really lonely for, what we really want, is sex. The rest is camouflage. The final solution for loneliness, we are told, is romantic sexuality. For us, the expression 'lover' simply means 'sexual partner'. Sex is seen as a panacea, the ultimate answer to our loneliness.

    There is some truth in this, albeit it's far, far from the whole truth. Outside of sexual union, we are, in the end, always somewhat more radically alone, single, lonely, a minority of one. However, as experience has taught us, sexual union of itself is no guarantee of overcoming separateness. Why? Because we are lonely at levels that sex alone cannot touch. Our deepest loneliness is moral.


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