In New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton wrote about solitude and community in a way that seems especially relevant given our current political climate:
“There is actually no more dangerous solitude than that of the man who is lost in a crowd, who does not know he is alone and who does not function as a person in a community. . . Where men live huddled together without true communication, there seems to be greater sharing, and a more genuine communication. But this is not communication, only immersion in the general meaninglessness of countless slogans and cliches repeated over and over again so that in the end one listens without hearing and responds without thinking. The constant din of empty words and machine noises, the endless booming of loudspeakers end by making true communication and true communion almost impossible. Each individual in the mass is insulated by thick layers of insensibility. He doesn’t care, he doesn’t hear, he doesn’t think.”
We need to awaken from our “dangerous solitude” of party loyalty and nationalism and rediscover our sense of community—to rediscover what it means to be a citizen in a diverse democracy and what it means to be a democratic nation in a world beset by the storm of global change. The time is now.