April 22, 2011


Earlier in the week, I stopped by a local gym to walk the treadmill for an hour instead of taking my usual turn through the park. The facility has several televisions hanging on the wall to help pass the time and so I pulled on my earphones to watch one of the national newscasts. After I heard a report on Japan’s nuclear fallout and watched Libyan rebels defend their homes against Khadafy’s armed tanks, my heart was racing without the need for exercise.  Fortunately, toward the end of the broadcast, the news was of a lighter note.  The closing report told of a recent study that revealed marriages are on the decline. Not only are millions of young people living together without a state’s blessing, but the trend is growing among older adults. The conclusion? Marriage may no longer be thriving, but the need for companionship is alive and well.

The remark recalled comments I had read years before in a book called “Our Bodies, Ourselves. It wasan interesting tome andcorroborated the need to partner with someone whether it is in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.  In fact the book went so far in its defense of partnering that it condemned those who remained single, saying solitary individuals were pitiable because they were incapable of either giving or receiving love. 

(Jeff Widener/Associated Press)

As a single woman, I thought the authors were guilty of a harsh and false judgment. There are many ways to love. Gandhi retreated from his family so that he could love his country. Handel said he could not love a wife and love his music in one life. Newton, Beethoven and countless others have sought to express their love through their focused attention on their work. Did Buddha not choose a solitary life? Or Mother Theresa? Would we think of them as selfish or pitiable?

As we grow tolerance in this country, I hope we will extend it to those who chose to live alone. Though different from the main, there is nothing strange in that decision. A contemplative life can express a broad love for humanity, not a selfish one. Sometimes a person must live in solitude to recognize the “we” inside all of us. The revelation can produce much good. As Buddha observed, a single flame can light a thousand candles.