Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 24, 2003
Tend your garden of 'moral loneliness'
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
More than we need someone to sleep with sexually, we need someone to sleep with morally.
The term "moral loneliness," I think, should be credited to Robert Coles, who first used it to describe Simone Weil. What it suggests is that inside each of us there's a place, a deep centre, where all that's tender, sacred, cherished, and precious is kept and guarded.
It's here, in that deep centre, where we're most sincere, are still innocent, and where we unconsciously remember that once, before birth, hands gentler than our own caressed us.
Here we remember the primordial kiss of God.
It's also in this place, more than any other, that we fear lies, harshness, disrespect, being shamed, ridiculed or violated. We're most vulnerable there, so we're scrupulously careful as to whom we admit into this space, our moral centre, even as our deepest longing is precisely for someone to share that place with us.
More than we need someone to sleep with sexually, we need someone to sleep with morally: We need a soulmate. We achieve moral consummation more easily in fantasy than in real life. Because of this, especially as more of the tensions of life descend on us, we perennially face a double temptation: Resolve the tension by giving into compensations which, while not the answer, get us through the night; or, perhaps worse still, give into bitterness, anger and cynicism, and in this way drop our ideals because it's too painful to live with them. But these aren't easy to find. It's rare to have a perfect moral partner, even inside of a good marriage or friendship.
What's to be learned from Jesus' example in his struggle with moral loneliness? The Gospels emphasize that he was bitterly alone in his pain, but that he refused to use either the road of compensatory escape or of soul-hardening cynicism.
He stayed and carried the tension to term. Not easy, but that's the Gospel route.
What Jesus (and people like Therese of Lisieux and Simone Weil) model is how to carry tension correctly, how to carry solitude at a high level.
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