Since March it’s hard to not be thinking, at least occasionally, about loneliness. While many of us have experienced “pandemic fatigue” and have been a little more adventurous these past few months, the most vulnerable among us do not have that luxury. For so many people these are very lonely times.
Mid-20th century philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that loneliness is not necessarily a state of being alone, but a state of feeling abandoned, even when surrounded by others. This is a state of feeling alone that we don’t choose – it feels as if it is happening to us and there is nothing we can do about it.
Solitude, on the other hand, is a state we willingly choose. Something we need, even. Sometimes we need a break from our surroundings to rethink, renew, and recharge.
Solitude can happen in the moment, when we pray or meditate, take a long walk, or put on our headphones and listen to our favorite music for an extended period of time.
While solitude is choosing to step away from the world, loneliness is giving up on the world, or feeling that the world has given up on you.
During these stressful, anxious, and sometimes hopeless feeling times, you may need to find moments of solitude. Or, perhaps, you are experiencing loneliness. If you are, I hope that you will hear that you are not alone. I hope you will hear that the world has not given up on you.