Respect but do not fear your own fear. Do not let it come between you and something that might be deeply enjoyable. Remember it is quite normal to be a bit frightened of being alone. Most of us grew up in a social environment that sent out the explicit message that solitude was bad for you: it was bad for your health (especially your mental health) and bad for your 'character' too. Too much of it and you would promptly become weird, psychotic, self-obsessed, very possibly a sexual predator and rather literally a wanker. Mental (and even physical) well-being, along with virtue, depends, in this model, on being a good mixer, a team-player and having high self-esteem, plus regular, uninhibited, simultaneous orgasms with one partner (at a time). Actually, of course, it is never this straightforward because at the same time as pursuing this 'extrovert ideal', society gives out an opposite - though more subterranean - message. Most people would still rather be described as sensitive, spiritual, reflective, having rich inner lives and being good listeners, than the more extroverted opposites. I think we still admire the life of the intellectual over that of the salesman; of the composer over the performer (which is why pop stars constantly stress that they write their own songs); of the craftsman over the politician; of the solo adventurer over the package tourist. People continue to believe, in the fact of so much evidence - films, for example - that Great Art can only be produced by solitary geniuses. But the kind of unexamined but mixed messages that society offers us in relation to being alone add to the confusion; and confusion strengthens fear.
Sara Maitland
I’d like to share with you a parable: the parable of Bob the Angel.A girl was walking down a darkly lit city street late at night. A man jumped out from the shadows and attacked her, suddenly she was suffocating and disoriented as hands clasped around her neck and the force of his attack started to push her down. She tried to yell as she struggled to pull his arms from her neck while she crumpled backwards to the ground, God . . . help me! The next thing she remembers—just as the fear consumed her and right as she disappeared into the misery and despair of helplessness—was a loud crash and an explosion of glass which rained down upon her and her attacker. The assailant’s lifeless body was suspended above her, held from collapsing on her by an unknown force and then pulled away from hovering over her and dropped onto the pavement beside her. She opened her eyes in the faint shadowy light, to see black matted hair and a long, black beard framing the eyes of a man. The smell of alcohol on his breath would have knocked her out if the adrenaline was not still trilling through her veins. There he stood, God’s angel, off-kilter and drunk, with a broken whiskey bottle in his hand. You probably shouldn’t be walking through here this late at night, was all he said as he turned away.Wait! What’s your name? she asked, still stunned half sitting up on the ground.All she heard as he walked away was his trailing voice calling, Bob’s as good as any. . . . An angel is a messenger and sometimes we only want letters sent in white envelopes with beautiful gold print, when sometimes a simple no on the back of a gum wrapper is what we are offered. Every postcard from heaven does not come with a picture of the sunset there, nor should it. If it is an answer we want, an answer we will get. As far as pretty postcards, there are many others willing to send us that. If not harps and gold-tipped wings, what then is the mark of an angel? An answer which pierces your soul and which inspires a question that invites you to look outside of yourself and up to God.
Michael Brent Jones