Tuesday, January 5, 2010


…Alone and parted far
From joy and gladness
My senses fail
A burning fire
Devours me
None but the lonely heart
Can know my sadness

Tchaikovsky, "None But the Lonely Heart"

A new year has begun. A time for fresh beginnings, New Year’s resolutions, weight loss, smoking cessation, promises of rigorous exercise, eating healthy foods…

The list is endless. How would you make yourself over, if you really could? What would you try to do differently in 2010?

Perhaps you would take better care of your house, your cars. Maybe you would spend more time in the garden doing the hated weeding. You might promise to watch less television and utilize your free time wisely, with a good book, for example.

May we make a radical suggestion? It is simply this: Value the one who means the most to you in life. Love that one with all your heart now. Find time to be near to her/him this very moment, while you yet have time. Our life does not last forever.

Take a few seconds to reflect. What would your life be like, if the one who means the most to you were now gone, today, right this very second?

Well, first of all, there would be no communication. You could not talk together. This means, all the comforting times of just hearing the other’s voice, the assurance that she/he cared, the chance to talk through differences of opinion or misunderstandings from the past, all this would suddenly be gone. Silence, instead of the voice you knew. No phone will ring, at the time she/he would call.

Just silence.

In the past, as you walked together, you may have held hands. If so, you felt close. Your fingers intertwined. You shared the warmth of the other.

Now you walk alone.

You may have danced together in locales you enjoyed. You had your favorite songs. If the music invigorated you, you smiled and moved quickly in time to the beat. If the song was slow and romantic, you held the other close, moved together without even having to think. You knew what the other would do, how he/she would react. You simply flowed with the music.

Now you do not dance at all. Or, if you do, you discover that a black pall hangs over all the places you frequented together. You look around, search for the other. No one is there.

You may have traveled together to special places, areas which you and the other knew intimately. You visited the stores, bought souvenirs or mementoes, ate lunch at restaurants you can still remember. You can even find the place where you last stayed.

Now you are alone. The sunshine of August has been replaced by the rains of January. The warmth of the summer sun has been superceded by a cold wind blowing in from the sea.

You look up at the rain. Your tears of regret mingle with the raindrops from the sky.

You stand alone in the pouring rain.

Tchaikovsky knew the despondency that comes from a severed relationship, one broken by our mistakes or by the finality of death. He states in None But the Lonely Heart that the loneliness he felt separated him from joy and gladness, to the degree that his senses failed and a burning fire devoured him. Our senses are alive, quickened, when we are with the one we love, but heartache seems to deaden our reactions to even lively stimuli. Instead, we feel consumed, perhaps by regret, at being unable to undo that which separated us.

If we try to reach out to others during these times of isolation, we soon learn that few have the time, fewer the inclination to help those experiencing heartache. All are busy with their own lives, their own activities, priorities. The heartfelt cry of the one alone is rarely heard at all. And even if heard, such a cry is too complex, others feel, too bothersome, to warrant an attempt at help.

And so the one alone remains alone.

Are you alone today? If so, only you and others like you will understand what we say here. Or, as Tchaikovsky phrased it,

None but the lonely heart
Can know my sadness.

As the New Year dawns, let us resolve to value that relationship which means the most to us, to fight to keep it intact, while there is yet time. If misunderstandings keep us apart, let us do everything possible to resolve our differences, while there is still time to make positive changes.

Those of us who are believers, Christians, can take solace in the words of Isaiah, quoted by Jesus and applied to Himself:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because…He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…

May 2010 be the year in which we bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim the Lord’s favor. How much better that would be than to leave each other alone.

Son of Shaphat

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