An Antidote to Loneliness


Oren Slozberg, Commonweal Executive Director

August 16, 2023

Inner Life

July was one of those months. It started with the presence of 30 teenagers as part of the Power of Hope camp, and concluded with an amazing conversation in the Commonweal library between U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen—the writer, physician, mentor and co-founder of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program.

The conversation between Dr. Murthy and Dr. Remen focused particularly on the pandemic of loneliness, which has been a central issue for the Surgeon General’s office. His website has collected research, testimonies, and recommendations to guide new ways to address the issue. The recordings of the conversation are available on his U.S. Department of Health and Human Services channels, and on The New School at Commonweal's website and media channels (YouTube and Soundcloud, as well as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music).In some ways, what was happening at Commonweal a few weeks before the conversation—our Power of Hope youth camp—was part of the antidote.

The young people who attend the summer camp often say that this is the only place where they can be truly seen, and where they can be themselves. That same sentiment is shared by the hundreds of people who have been to a Healing Circle. From alumni of the Cancer Help Program, we hear that Commonweal is their home and their community. We hear this from the women who attend the Octavia Fund retreats for Black women, from the Fall Gathering community, from the Art of Vitality program in the Commonweal Garden that Natura Institute for Ecology and Medicine runs, and from our Retreat Center Collaborative gatherings and community meetings.

In most of our programs, we witness these stories of connectedness. It might be that most of what we do at Commonweal is about connecting. Just the act of gathering in nature, in a courageous and safe space, does half of the work. And yet this sense of community, connection, and belonging reverberates beyond the physical limitations of the Commonweal land. The community formed through decades of gatherings on our land, the sacred hospitality of Retreat Center, and the grief-saturated stones in the Chapel, are invoked each time a Commonweal community gathers, anywhere in the world.

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