However, the truest solitude is not something outside you,
not an absence of men or of sound around you;
it is an abyss opening up in the center of your own soul.
And this abyss of interior solitude is a hunger
that will never be satisfied with any created thing.
New Seeds of Contemplation (1961)
Merton says that the truest solitude comes from within… an abyss opening up in the center of the soul with an undying hunger. Sounds like a solitude I could live without… yet I feel it inside me.
The confusion comes when I equate this abyss of solitude with the dark night of my soul. Both have a silent, desperate quality about them. One is the full presence of God and the other is the entire absence of God… but they both feel the same in my spirit.
Which is which? How do I know the difference? There are greater minds that could offer much wiser insight than me. I have only a few hints and guesses.
Merton is right… no created thing will satisfy that hunger.
And St. John of the Cross is right… you must go by a way you know not… The Ascent of Mount Carmel.
Paul is right… now we see as through a glass darkly… 1 Corinthians 13:12.
Me… my heart is compelled forward because I simply don’t know anything better… Lord, to whom shall we go?
These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
(TS Eliot in The Dry Salvages)
Not fare well, but fare forward, voyagers.