Balancing Solitude and Community

"Theodore of Pherme said, 'The man who has learnt the sweetness of the cell flees from his neighbor but not as though he despised him.'

"The cell is not an escape from life or other people. Modern society conditions us to remain connected with other people all the time. Cell phones, text messaging, and e-mail are great innovations in communication, but being in constant 'touch' with others can deprive us from being in touch with ourselves. The 'sweetness of the cell' is intimacy with the One who loves us unconditionally. We can be 'who we are' without the expectations or judgments placed on us by others or ourselves. Seeing ourselves as God sees us helps us see others as God sees them. Amma Sarah prayed often that 'my heart may be pure towards all' and Abba Poemen said, 'Teach your mouth to say that which you have in your heart.' The 'sweetness of the cell' is the source of civility, honest dialogue, and valuing our neighbors for themselves and not simply for our benefit. They are with us in the cell."