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Monday, December 8, 2014

Henri Nouwen

"Solitude is the furnace of transformation."

 Henri Nouwen
Dutch Priest / Writer
1932 - 1996

In my mind, solitude and silence are very closely linked.  Silence means to be without sound. Yet, unless we are deaf, we rarely will be able to find silence in this world.  Even in the forest late at night, one will hear sound.  What we can do is limit the types of sound we hear.  I can remove urban sounds by traveling to the country.  I can turn off the radio or the television.  I can choose what sounds I want to hear. 

Solitude, on the other hand, is the state of being alone and without human contact.  There still will be noise and sound.  We can be alone in our own homes, during a walk through a park, or driving a automobile, but sound will also be there, including the sound of our own thoughts.

As creative leaders, we must learn to manage, encourage and harness both silence and solitude if we are going to be successful.  When I write, I try to limit the sounds that I hear. I don't play music as some do.  I don't listen to TV.  I have learned to write in public and to block out the white noise.  I also need solitude, particularly from loved ones.  It is very hard for me to write with my wife in the same room.  I can write in a mall because I have more space.

Creative Practice
Evaluate the role silence and solitude play in your life.  Look for ways to add more solitude.    Learn to cut out some of the noise that follows you.  Add 15 minutes more of solitude to your life.

The Return of the Prodigal Son
Write a poem about silence or solitude. Paint a picture of solitude or silence. Evoke the sound of solitude in your music.

Henri Nouwen was born in Nijkerk, Netherlands.  He was the oldest of four children born to Laurent and Maria Nouwen.  
Henri Nouwen was ordained as a priest in 1957 and completed a degree in psychology in 1963.  He came to the United States in 1964 and taught at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard.  He wrote 40 books on spirituality.  His most famous book is The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Meditation on Fathers, Brothers and Sons which was published in 1992.  He wrote the book in response to the painting, the Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt.  He traveled to Russia to observe the painting at the Hermitage Museum.

Here is a video about Henri Nouwen.