24 Apr Jesus & Miguel de Unamuno – Solitude & Society
Jesus tells us we cannot enter the kingdom of God unless we are born of both water and spirit1. Most of us can work out what Jesus means by born of spirit but born of water is a bit trickier. The literalist will just say, “Oh, he must mean baptism,” and leave it at that. But Jesus never wanted us to leave his words just at that. He infused all of his teachings with many levels of meaning, discernible to those who have the ears ready to hear it.2
As well all know, Jesus liked using parables to teach. Sometimes these parables are explicit, such as in the parable of the prodigal son, and other times they are implicit. For Jesus, water is a natural element that is a parable in itself. For example, if we look at Jesus’s life as depicted in the Gospels, we see that it echoes the flowing in and receding back of the ocean’s tides. Jesus would repeatedly flow out into society to teach, spread the gospel of Christ, and share fellowship with his neighbors, only to recede back into himself, into lonely places to pray3.
If we are truly to realize Christ in its fullness, we should remember that both solitude and society are essential. The artist, poet, or musician who spends their life creating great works yet ignores regular fellowship with his community is as spiritually off-kilter as the good-hearted soul who dedicates their life to helping others yet ignores that solitary inner dialogue which is essential to self-growth. Solitude and society are like a tidal river, each side continually feeding the other. Or in the eloquent words of the Spanish author and statesman Miguel de Unamuno:
Only in solitude do we find ourselves; and in finding ourselves, we find in ourselves all our brothers [and sisters] in solitude—in solitude and only in solitude can you know yourself as a neighbor, and as long as you do not know yourself as a neighbor, you can never hope to see in your neighbors other I’s—It is solitude that makes [us] really sociable and human.
To read about Teilhard de Chardin and the inherent goodness of the world, please go to: Having Faith in the World.
- “In truth I tell you,” exclaimed Jesus, “unless you are reborn, you cannot see the kingdom of God.” “How can someone,” asked Nicodemus, “be born when they are old? Can we be born a second time?” “In truth I tell you,” answered Jesus, “unless you owe your birth to water and spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:3-5 [↩]
- “Nothing is hidden unless some day it comes to light, nor was anything ever kept hidden but that it should some day come into the light of day. 23 Let all who have ears to hear with hear.” Mark 4:22-23 [↩]
- The story about Jesus spread all the more, and great crowds came together to listen to him, and to be cured of their illnesses; But Jesus used to withdraw to lonely places and pray. Luke 5:15-16 [↩]