Holy Aloneness

 

 

This month’s poetic interconnection is a personal one.

I’ve spent my last six months sharing a loft in an urban setting. The apartment is spacious but, being a loft, it’s one unbroken space. There is no privacy. The area is hip but, being downtown, it’s bustling. There is no quiet.

A challenging experience for a creative artist: a lack of privacy and quiet within which to create. All composition, analysis, experimentation, evolution, frustration, elation, and repetition occurring within direct eyeshot and earshot of a housemate, and always accompanied by the roar of traffic and the chatter of passersby.

I’ve answered this challenge by pressing pause on myself, my creative flow held back and pooling inside as I’ve grown more and more hungry for time alone, crisp air, and trees nearby.

Ancient Kabbalists wrote about our often unrecognized need for hitbodedut—’holy aloneness’. We live our days surrounded by other people and the bustle of commerce, our time given to practical tasks. Our spiritual need becomes easily neglected. To answer this need, Rabbis suggested retiring into nature at dusk, after our day’s work. There, alone, we can approach God, unhampered by inhibition or obligation. Our prayer can be intimate, spontaneous, and uncensored. It can be raw. We can catch the divine flow, the source of creative inspiration. We can perceive our potential—press play, roll tape, and jam.

 

 

There’s a scientific analogue here. Did you know that at quantum scales our universe behaves differently when it’s observed than when it’s left alone? When observed, subatomic entities act like classical particles, tightly packed balls of energy moving discretely from place to place. But between measurements, unobserved, quanta leave evidence of behaving more like waves. Particles loosen, smearing out into streams of potential energy. The streams stretch out infinitely across our universe.

Only when they’re left alone do subatomic particles relax and express their full potential, languid and boundless. Apparently, even our physical universe needs hitbodedut.

I’m well overdue for some.

A creative person spits out their internal experience as art. This blog post is a hard-won work: a confession, and a cry for help. Something’s gotta give.

Can you relate?

Comments welcome.

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16 Comments

  1. Daniel
    May 28, 2011 at 6:23 PM — Reply

    I can relate… just before I received your newsletter I wrote…

    …. Love.. anger. then loneliness… distancing… jealousy… alienation… Love… loneliness.. despair and back to loneliness… again… and again…

    • poeticinterconnections
      May 30, 2011 at 10:24 AM — Reply

      Sounds like you’re going through an intense time, Daniel. I get it. Sending best wishes for clarity and peace to you, man.

  2. judith margolis
    May 29, 2011 at 12:09 AM — Reply

    interesting synchronicity =I am up in the night alone in a hotel room newly arrived from Israel. The last 7 months have been intensely crowded with far more social and interpersonal contact than I am used to and I was somewhat vexed by my solitude. Your post reminds me that sometimes the universe gives us exactly what we need, even if we don’t know it ourselves.

    • poeticinterconnections
      May 30, 2011 at 10:27 AM — Reply

      What a great synchronicity, yes! Hoping your solitude grows on you and decompresses you. And looking forward to connecting with you again, Judith, should you be back in Los Angeles soon.

  3. dubness
    May 29, 2011 at 7:13 AM — Reply

    Mazel Tov my brother. This post has touched me deeply and is a mitzvah and message for this poet as I share space with an ecstatic whirling dervish man. After 25 years choosing to live alone it has been the grandest experiment.

    I hear your cry for solitude and I wonder: Perhaps Sinai was actually the most sanctified salve and not suffering.

    • poeticinterconnections
      May 30, 2011 at 10:27 AM — Reply

      It hadn’t even occurred to me how much you’d be able to relate to this post… Synced again! And so nice to hear some overdue verse from my favorite poet.

  4. Pina Bastos
    May 29, 2011 at 6:36 PM — Reply

    I completely agree with this, and as we are all the same, made with the same matter as the stars, as a matter of fact, we are star dust, as the Kabalist already knew thousands of years ago, all that aplies to the stars aply to us. We all need this holy aloneness, for sure.

    • poeticinterconnections
      May 30, 2011 at 10:28 AM — Reply

      What a great expansion of my poetic interconnection! Of course, we mirror our physical universe because our makings are the same. Thank you, Pina. You just blew my mind.

  5. Lyle Medved
    June 28, 2011 at 1:27 PM — Reply

    I can certainly relate. I have always needed as far back as I remember my own room, dorm, apartment, etc. to both just think and relax much less be creative. But what may be of help is, given this blog is about both science and spirituality, that the creative impulse, thankfully, can be stored, like electricity in a battery, to be put away and then put to use later to fuel productive enterprise (even if that means jotting down ideas or plans for later). Where anxiety might come into play is thinking that the creative element follows the rules of linear time. If I am correct, creativity, being resident within the right hemisphere (which has more “child-like” qualities such as symbolic and visual-spatial interaction, fun music, and a holistic worldview) it follows that creativity will conform to how the right-hemisphere processes time, as a child does, which, as we are told, can fly when we have fun, including when we create the way we wish for ourselves and others.

    Taking time out at the end of the day (whenever you decide to call it quits) to reassess and remind yourself of this fact may serve to cut down on anxiety building up that one’s creativity is “off track” and needs to immedidately be put back on a schedule. If this isn’t enough, maybe taking more time like a day off or even a real weekend getaway may be in order.

    You hear today that people who live an “extreme” lifestyle say “you can sleep when your dead”. What you may not know is that the mighty, mighty Spartans ridiculed the Jewish people for following the Sabbath, that they were literally wasting 1/7th of their life when they could be building, conquering, etc. Perhaps the Spartans were able to get away with this by being spartan, i.e. only using the minimum resources to achieve their objectives in life, but this, to me, doesn’t appear to be a full life, in keeping with the Jewish toast “L’chaim”, literally “To lives!”. Whether that is in reference to reincarnation, to normal phases of life (childhood, adolescence, etc.) or to many aspects or our lives (work life, social life, love life), I can let you decide.

    Adam, I hope you find some hitbodedut soon and this comment helps you and your readers out there.

    – L.M.

    • poeticinterconnections
      June 30, 2011 at 8:02 AM — Reply

      Thank you for your comment, L.M. Clearly, a fulfilled creative life requires balancing schedule and spontaneity. It’s a point of stress for most artists I know, reconciling the structured demands of daily life and the chaotic seduction of the muse. The two often seem mutually exclusive. Perhaps keeping that balance is a living artwork all its own.

  6. Marvolo
    August 1, 2011 at 11:55 AM — Reply

    Exceptional!!! Very profound!!

    • poeticinterconnections
      August 2, 2011 at 8:52 AM — Reply

      Thank you, sir! How did you find the blog?

  7. LK Levine
    March 3, 2012 at 12:14 PM — Reply

    BUT … implying that something is “unobserved” when an observation is being made seems contradictory. How can we ever really know what anything does or doesn’t do when we really don’t observe it, either in present time or aftermath. Perhaps I’m missing a critical point?

    • poeticinterconnections
      March 4, 2012 at 6:50 PM — Reply

      LK, thank you for your comment! Most actions have observable effects. An example given in quantum theory texts is that of a ship traveling an ocean. The ship disturbs the water, leaving wave patterns from which its mass, speed, and direction can be estimated long after it’s disappeared over the horizon. Quantum particles leave similar evidence of their comings and goings. And though we can estimate what happens when we’re not observing, we can never be certain. Thus the mystery of quantum mechanics—and, to me, its beauty.

  8. Rhona
    March 3, 2012 at 11:10 PM — Reply

    Great post… It felt good to ponder and remind myself of the “aloneness” that’s been calling me for some time now. I used to meditate (spend time alone) almost every day. Now, I find myself clawing for the little that’s left of the day just to unwind.

    I like the question that LK Levine has posted as well. I’m interested in more great thoughts shared because of it.

    Thank you Adam!

    Rho

    • poeticinterconnections
      March 4, 2012 at 6:52 PM — Reply

      Rho! Thank you for your compliments. I love your poetry: “…clawing for the little that’s left of the day…” I hope my answer to LK’s question interests and inspires you, and that you’re able to reclaim the holy aloneness you’re missing.

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