The truth of sacred loneliness – thoughts on "Once" and "Year of the Dog"

2007 seemed to be a year where being lonely became a holy thing. Think about two of the critically acclaimed indie films from last year – Once and Year of the Dog. Both films centered around characters for whom loneliness was not merely a problem to be overcome, but rather a place where something sacred could be found. Molly Shannon’s character Peggy in Year of the Dog leads a seemingly painful isolated life that caves in after her dog dies. What emerges after this death of the one living thing she connected with was that her love for animals was larger than the life she had constructed – the humor of her trying to maintain 15 dogs in her house is a classic example of how people try to squeeze that which they love into their existing, small lives rather than take their lives into that which they love. In Once, Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard play two quietly desparate musicians in Dublin seeking escape from their day-to-day lives. Hensard’s Guy lives in the memory of love lost – the women who haunts his memories and his songs – and only talks of risking a leap into his love for music. Irglova plays the shy piano player from Prague who resides in Dublin but knows that she is needing to make peace and reconcilation with her past if her present is going to mean anything. Both admit to being trapped in their isolation – from their dreams, their hopes, and ultimately from love that is deep and trustworthy (the scene where Irglova buys batteries for her CD player late at night and sings aloud the song she has written to Guy’s music is a perfect scene in this regard). As they move into the songs they sing, there is the discovery amidst the loneliness that neither was willing to admit, let alone deal with – a deep vocation “calling them” admist the loneliness they wouldn’t have found otherwise.

There is a discovery in this loneliness that is not all darkness – the need to connect, the desire we have to live into that which we truly love, the wonder of those fleeting moments of ectasy when we glimpse what moving out of our loneliness and allowing love to be our home looks and feels like.

If this is the path to live worth living, perhaps we need loneliness to midwife us into this journey…

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