Distractions … A reflection by Henri J.M. Nouwen


I discovered this Catholic priest’s writings from my friend Alayne when I was in a search for who I really was. He is profound, emotional, grounded in his faith and human… so very human. His writing never fails to move me. My favorite books by this man are The Inner Voice of Love and The Dance of Life. His words always encourage me to live fully … to experience to the deepest depths of my soul….. every piece of being human – love … fear … loneliness … faith …. hope…. despair. I want to go out of this world having experienced it all with an open heart. This life is a gift to be treasured not endured. I hope you enjoy something that touched me this morning. From my breakfast table to yours…….

Distractions (The Dance of Life, p.92)

The roots of loneliness are very deep and cannot be touched by optimistic advertisement, substitute love images, or social togetherness. They find their food in the suspicion that there is no one who cares and offers love without conditions, and no place where we can be vulnerable without being used. The many small rejections of every day – a sarcastic smile, a flippant remark, a brisk denial, or a bitter silence – may all be quite innocent and hardly worth our attention if they did not constantly arouse our basic human fear of being left totally alone with “darkness …. [as our] one companion left” (Psalm 88)

It is this most basic human loneliness that threatens us and is so hard to face. Too often we will do everything possible to avoid the confrontation with the experience of being alone, and sometimes we are able to create the most ingenious devices to prevent ourselves from being reminded of this condition. Our culture has become most sophisticated in the avoidance of pain, not only our physical pain but our emotional and mental pain as well. We not only bury our dead as if they were still alive, but we also bury our pains as if they were not really there. We have become so used to this state of anesthesia, that we panic when there is nothing or nobody left to distract us….

….By running away from our loneliness and by trying to distract ourselves with people and special experiences, we do not realistically deal with our human predicament. We are in danger of becoming unhappy people suffering from many unsatisfied cravings and tortured by desires and expectations that never can be fulfilled. Does not all creativity ask for a certain encounter with our loneliness, and does not the fear of this encounter severely limit our possible self-expression?

2 Comments on “Distractions … A reflection by Henri J.M. Nouwen

  1. This spoke to me today, Sharon. I’ve been dealing with some of these issues and had a particularly tough day on Monday. Funnily, when I stopped for a Starbucks, the barista repeated my order back to me to be sure it was correct, she then added “would you like that to be made with love?” Just out of the blue. Teared up right there among the coffee mugs and beans. I said “Yes, please!” Small things like that and reading your blog this morning remind me that the universe IS listening, I just have to shut up enough to hear sometimes.

    Hope you have a great Wednesday!

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