The Cultivation of Solitude

In our senior year of college, a group of friends began hosting “professor dinners” in which we crowded around a mediocre meal and asked a beloved teacher an impossibly difficult question.

In the final weeks before graduation, three professors were asked, “what is the greatest challenge of our generation?”  

The first answered, “the ability and conviction to speak truthfully.”

The second answered, “solidarity with the poor.”

Then, the third answered that “the cultivation of solitude” was to be our greatest challenge.

Wait… the WHAT?

Largely an overzealous, justice-minded bunch, reactions ranged from sceptical acceptance to muffled horror.  Didn’t this guy know about the urgency of the struggle for justice?  

Of course he knew.  But, he also knew that without solitude, we would not be centered within ourselves, be capable of sharing this center with others, or authentically build communities worthy of trust strong enough to bear the challenges of our age.