The Allure of Sanctuary

Way back in 1976, a film appeared on the scene called, “Logan’s Run,” starring Michael York as a law enforcement “sandman,” tracking down people trying to escape from being “renewed,” at the age of thirty, in a futuristic dystopian world where no one grows old. He is assigned to go undercover and expose a place where those who don’t want to “renew” go for refuge called, “Sanctuary.” It’s an interesting film which also stars Peter Ustinov as one of the very last surviving “old people,” and it presents the viewer with some thought-provoking material regarding the value of maturity and of Sanctuary.

Sanctuary can be one of the most important ideas to ponder, as well as one of the most useful places, that we can seek out, no matter where we live, and no matter what our circumstances. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve an elaborate or hidden place like the one in the film, but, by definition, it constitutes a safe location, but it may simply require achieving a peaceful and calm state of mind, in order to be considered a sanctuary of sorts.


It is difficult at times, especially in the midst of chaos or turmoil, to disassociate ourselves from our circumstances, even temporarily, and so a sanctuary generally takes place away from the general run of life, maybe a quick stop at a library, or a local park, during a walk on a brisk winter day, but with practice and determination, we may also be able to find sanctuary within ourselves, even when the physical place isn’t ideal. Wherever we are able to be alone with our thoughts and to disengage, even for just a few minutes, from our busy modern lives, we can find brief encounters with solace and sanctuary.


When we can actually divert our attention from the everyday hum of life, even a humble spare room in an attic or basement can suffice, and as someone who spent more than 20 years raising a group of six children, I can assure you that the effort to find even brief moments of what one might describe as sanctuary can make a huge difference in one’s ability to cope with the fast pace that such a life can attain at times.


My own first attempts at achieving some degree of calm and quiet as an aspiring writer nearly always required me to simply wait until everyone was asleep, and then dragging out all my books and papers and materials out to the kitchen table, and then dragging them all back before they woke up. Eventually, after the nest started to empty, I was able to cordon off a section of the laundry room for a desk and a bookshelf, so at least I didn’t have to keep moving everything around, but as you might imagine, the parade of people into the laundry room and the relentless running of the washer and dryer didn’t always add up to a clear sanctuary experience, but the “waiting-until-sleep” mode was still available.

More recently, as the nest finally emptied in the traditional sense, I was able to convert one of the upstairs bedrooms into a real “office,” with the customary equipment and options for dedicated application of a “writing space.” For some time now I have been able to spend continuous hours of quiet and calm in my own version of “sanctuary.”


Sanctuary should be a place where we can “let go,” and not worry so much about the world outside of us. Something important to remember, though, is that we cannot forget, even when we are in that place, that it’s not supposed to be a total disconnect from the WHOLE world, because every moment as a living being takes place in THIS world. It is mainly up to us to figure out how much is too much, and to what degree our disengagement must achieve in order to be useful and productive.

I occasionally take great satisfaction in the available moments of quietude to run a bunch of warm water and soap into the tub and withdraw into the warmth with some calming music to distract me from even the way working in my office can’t always seem to do.

The important part of all this is to recognize and establish whatever routines help us to “clear out the cobwebs,” or to seek refuge in whatever space might be available, and to attend to our inner life…advancing our “inner evolution.”

10 thoughts on “The Allure of Sanctuary

  1. I guess there are worlds and there are worlds. Some are a pleasure to return to: a choir practice at the Norman church I am sitting in at this very moment. Despite the bickering the other night, it is the sort of world I can benefit from and enjoy. Then there is the world of business or politics both of which I find alien and distasteful ~ those are not worlds I wish to re-enter if I can help it. I like people, I like chatting, singing with them, having a quiet lunch. But somehow when money is at stake, or indeed so many other things which people feel strongly about, the whole atmosphere changes. And at that point I have to run back to the silence. I think it is partly an aging thing – a weariness for a world of cut and thrust one has come to find valueless.

    1. Anthony,

      It’s interesting to me that you are able to acknowledge now more clearly, the true value in worlds like those which occur as you participate in choir practice at the Norman church, (which I would also enjoy enormously) and characterize them as being diametrically opposed to the other worlds in which you no longer participate. This is the very same conclusion that has occurred to me in my current circumstance, and even though we both preferred to spend time in the better and more pleasurable world before we left those other worlds behind, the contrast is so much clearer now in the absence of the previous world in the main. I believe it was Kahlil Gibran who wrote that no matter how we feel about our circumstances, for good or ill, whatever we felt about them before we left them, is far clearer in their absence.

      It seems to me that, as you say, depending on what’s at stake, the situation can become so opposed to what we want our situation to be, that getting away from it and getting “back to the silence,” becomes the only viable alternative. I understand that the business world or the world of finance is often characterized as “cut and thrust,” and even in my supervisory role as a floor manager in a corporate endeavor, the “bottom line” was often the driving force behind our directives, and I found myself often frustrated by knowing full-well that those directives were often disadvantageous to production goals, which made no sense to me as someone on the front lines, so to speak.

      What gave me the most satisfaction out of all the issues I had to deal with in this regard, was my ability to lift up and to be an advocate for the people I supervised, often mitigating the valueless aspect for THEM, even while having to parry the “cut and thrust” from those above me. I took great pride in shielding my people from as much of the muck and mire as I could, and was often able to get superior performances on the floor as a result. I took a fair amount of heat and criticism from those above me, but they loved my numbers all the while.

      Sanctuary can be a place “away from it all,” like a cabin in the woods, or a visit to some lovely English country home on the water’s edge, or even just a quiet afternoon sitting in a warm tub of soapy water, but it can also be an evening choir practice at a Norman church, or a friendly moment of shared ideas with a distant fellow blogger. Even as someone aging and weary, we can still find a way to participate in the world, such as it is, and take solace in the good that we find, no matter what world we inhabit.

  2. So much of this post has hit home, John. I just recently watched “Logan’s Run” for the second time in about 25 years. The movie really bothered me years ago, but now I looked at it from a different perspective–one that noticed “at least there was a sanctuary.”

    Although I don’t have 6 kiddos, I do have 4 teens, and I have been trying to figure out a small place in our home that I could find to write. 🙂 Like you mentioned, it would be a place I could leave out all my papers and books and not have to stack them up all the time.

    I love how you found a corner in the laundry room…….it seems as if all the corners in this house are filled, but you have given me a new drive to seek out a small part of the house to call my own. Thank you so very much! 🙂

    1. I also was greatly bothered by the film years ago when I first saw it, and it seems clear that the filmmakers intended it to be bothersome in that way, as a means of making the point, that there is value in maturity, and how all that is good about life really doesn’t end at age thirty. There is much of value to gained in life after thirty, and as I approach my late sixties now, I think back on one of the final writings of Oliver Sacks, in his book entitled, “Gratitude,” where he talked about how his father, “…who lived to ninety-four, often said that the eighties had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life…he felt…not a shrinking, but an enlargement of mental life and perspective.”

      Four teens is plenty enough to compare, I’m sure, and finding the space isn’t easy, but as small as that first space was for me, it felt like a dream come true when I was the only one in it, and when I wasn’t competing with a stack of sheets and towels…lol The day I was able to move my desk upstairs and set it up in my own “home office,” I was almost giddy. I scrubbed the floor, dusted off the ledges, laid down a carpet remnant, filled it with every book I could squeeze into the bookshelves I assembled, and even plopped down my recliner in the middle of the floor. It is now a writer’s refuge and a full fledged sanctuary, so cluttered with my papers and files and books that I have to box up some of it in order to think clearly!

      My guess is that you may be able to recruit and negotiate with those four teens to help you find a way to get your spot. Best of luck to you!

      1. I think I would feel the exact same emotions you did in finding your space…… is something I have dreamed about for so long that I can’t wait to experience the excitement it will bring.
        I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Logan’s Run, thank you for sharing.
        Hope you have a very blessed weekend.

    1. Yes! It does look very similar to Millais’ Ophelia, and it seems likely that the message of the image I posted was not INTENDED to refer to Ophelia, but more to suggest a metaphorical transition inward “below the surface,” while we are very much alive!

  3. Hi John,

    This is a fascinating read. I came across your blog this evening and I am pleased I found it, will check out more of your writing in the coming week. Not sure if I could ever ascribe my former self an ‘eruption of consciousness’ but I am definitely intrigued by the issues you have touched upon.

    The idea of sanctuary is particularly dear to me these days. I’m only on kid number one but your writing about making a space for yourself resonates. Literally, now, I can only type this reply as my wife and son are in bed! I always thought of ‘sanctuary’ in modernity as being a mental state, more than a physical place. It’s just very hard to create such a mental space without sufficient time and energy…. which often come from some kind of retreat.

    Just my thoughts.

    Best wishes,


    1. Cam,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment thoughtfully to this post, and it is especially satisfying to know that what I wrote struck a familiar chord with you in the way that it did. Blogging successfully requires great effort and attention to specific elements of writing and research and contemplation of the subject, and while I do strive to give my blog posts this degree of attention, it is not always possible to elicit the kind of response you shared here and I am happy to respond to your comment.

      It is abundantly clear to those of us who have endured any sort of “eruption of consciousness,” regardless of the circumstances, that there are others who either haven’t had such experiences, or who didn’t recognize what was happening when they did have some relevant experience. Recognizing the value of your own personal viewpoint requires deliberate attention to whatever is important to you personally, but in your reading of this post, it seems you were able to discern in the description, some common components with those I expressed. When you are able to recognize such resonance, it can be encouraging in a way that helps you to find your own path, and I am grateful that you reached out to report it here, and welcome your willingness to share your connection to it.

      I remember well becoming a father with my own first child, and appreciate that you are already feeling the need to make your own space. Writing is deeply personal for those who engage in it deliberately and with purpose, and it clearly does require those of us willing to work at it to find a time and a place where it can be conducted with focus and free from distraction. As I indicated in my post, the place itself is not as important as the mental state one possesses while doing it, but it can be helpful to at least designate a personal writing space, as a means of creating a habit or routine for the purpose of writing.

      In my “About This Blog” section, I wrote:

      “The German poet and writer, Rainer Maria Rilke, (1875 – 1926) once advised a student of writing to seek an answer to the question; “Must I write?” If he could “meet this earnest question with a strong and simple, ‘I must,’ Rilke urged him to “build your life according to this necessity.”

      After a lifetime of striving to become someone who writes because they must, I can still compose important thoughts when I am NOT in my current writing space, but there are clearly times when I retreat to my writing space for that purpose alone, and the atmosphere or ambiance of that space is now so familiar, that I can quickly assume the mantle of “writer,” especially when it is urgent to do so.

      I very much appreciate your attention to my writing, and hope you will find much to inspire your interest in the 300 plus entries here, and that you will continue to express your thoughts and responses to whatever catches your attention here.

      With gratitude……John H.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s