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In solitude we can come to the realisation that we are not driven together but brought together. In solitude we come to know our fellow human beings not as partners who can satisfy our deepest needs, but as brothers and sisters with whom we are called to give visibility to God’s all-embracing love. In solitude we discover that community is not a common ideology, but a response to a common call. In solitude we indeed realise that community is not made but given

Henri J M Nouwen
Clowning in Rome

Solitude comes in many forms, times and places. Sometimes an inner-life experience, at others external. Sometimes corporate, at others alone. Or a mix of some of these.

At any rate, I prize times of solitude. Nouwen’s tender knowing heart hits the nail squarely on the head: ‘we are not driven together but brought together’.

So I can stop trying to push. I can celebrate that we are ‘brought together’. And Henri spoke not of an elite. He meant everyone, everywhere. All of us: brought, not driven.

Neither a prime minister nor a president can change my world as much as I can – just by the way I look at the gift of my life and responsibilities.

That’s the game changer. It leaves me no option but to relax into the commission to get along with the people around me. And oddly enough, it’s out of solitude, and the realisations gleaned there, that I best embark upon that daily pilgrimage.

In just such (shared) solitude tonight I remember the grace in a lonely old man I came to love dearly, many years ago. Jos gave me one of my treasures – a small, framed, copper plate etched with a text from the prophet Isaiah –

In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength

And it is so.

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