Thursday, September 5, 2013

Silence is Golden



Lao Tzu

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”

Helen Keller




(5:50 a.m.) I’ve been up for almost an hour.  It was nice to get to bed a little earlier and it was nice to wake up earlier.  It’s nice to write before the day with all its busyness begins.  I feel very grateful.  As often, I sit here not knowing what to write, so I write anyway.  That’s the opposite of what I should do when speaking.  If I don’t know what to say when speaking, I should just be quiet, especially when I’m in the presence of someone who is grieving or needs to talk.  I should also be quiet rather than try to impress people with “my wisdom.”
Being in a place of quiet is a good place to be.  I once had what I now believe was a mystical experience with quiet.  I was at Target, in the gardening section, in the back of that department looking at flowers.  Suddenly I realized that it was absolutely quiet.  There was no noise at all.  I couldn’t hear cars or customers or children.  It was completely quiet.  I just stood there for a few moments and took it all in and then I left.  A few days later I went back to the same section and the quiet was gone.  It was only recently that I realized that I had had a mystical experience.
Mystical experiences are not to be sought for themselves.  In fact, they’re not to be sought at all.  Saint Paul described a mystical experience where he was actually taken up to Heaven.  To keep him grounded after that, God gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh.”  We are not told what this thorn is.  We just know that Paul asked God to take it away…three times.  God told Paul that God’s grace was sufficient for him.  All of that is to say, there’s no point, and perhaps even a caution in seeking mystical experiences.  Seek God, life and love instead.  That’s enough potential for the mystical.
With regard to my mystical experience with the quiet, as I said, I didn’t even realize until recently that it was a mystical experience.  Thus, until now, I haven’t taken the time to wonder if there was a meaning or a lesson in it.  All I know is that for a few seconds I was enveloped in absolute silence.  Silence is a pretty rare phenomenon.  It’s 6:10 a.m. and I have already heard traffic, the cry of a baby and the loud insistent hum of an air conditioner.  People are taking showers and getting ready for the day.  In addition, I damaged my ear several years ago, so even when it is absolutely quiet, I hear ringing.
During most days I hear hundreds if not thousands of noises.  Refrigerators running, car speakers blasting, birds chirping, water running, horns beeping.  I’m glad I can hear and I also wonder how much is worth hearing.  Many of us are afraid of the quiet, so we keep a constant stream of noise in the background, usually music or television.  We don’t just keep it in the background; we keep it in the foreground with technology and music.  We listen to iPods or car stereos.  In the The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster we learn, however that there are also different kinds of silences:

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn?" she inquired. "Or the quiet and calm just as the storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause in a roomful of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're all alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful, if you listen carefully.”


I don’t think I appreciate the silences enough probably because I don’t get them enough.  Where does silence come from?  It is merely the absence of noise.  I think it’s more than that.  I think it comes from within.  I like what King David says in Psalm 131:

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    
my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

           
I think to get disentangled from all the noise of the world, I need to get disentangled from all the noise in myself.  One of the ways that I can do that is to be in my Purpose.  When I’m writing or doing anything that is meaningful and productive, I’m a lot quieter inside.  I’m not screaming for attention or approval.  I’m not whining.  I’m not complaining.  I’m just writing or doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  Purpose and determination are quiet.  Purpose may involve sound but it  doesn’t need to make noise.  The work speaks for itself.   Purpose is calm and quiet and gets the job done.  When I Get Started and Keep Going, I get calm and I get quiet.