This is a mournful, beautiful sentiment. Here is a man who knows that philosophy can indeed console--and a man whose forced solitude has often made consolation necessary.
It is, perhaps ironically, a sentiment appropriate for Ash Wednesday. Christ offers us the deepest consolation--a joy that can only be had after the cutting engagement with sin. And, at its best, the church provides the means for such consolation--forms and rituals that help bring our hearts, minds, and bodies into the necessary receptive stance.
I grew up in the Baptist church, and there are many things about that formation for which I will always be grateful. But my worship experience as a child lacked a deep sense of such rituals. And it lacked altogether a sense of the liturgical year beyond Christmas and Easter. Advent was a children's game involving calendars and festivity, and Lent was missing entirely.
Like many with this formation, I have treasured coming to know more liturgical traditions. The liturgy, at its best, provides words when words fail us. It is a sanctuary in the true sense--an asylum into which tyranny cannot force its way.
At its best. But it is all too easy to forget--perhaps because it seems so obvious--that forms can also be empty shells. Worse still, they can be sources of pride, thus contradicting everything this day is supposed to remind us of. Those of us walking around with ashes on our foreheads must ask ourselves: is this really humbling, or do I want people to know that I have observed the appropriate ritual today?
The form, the asylum, the sanctuary are all open spaces with walls--or perhaps cradles--around them. They are nothing unless filled with the inwardness of the labyrinthine hearts who realize how much they need them.