Christmas has, in too many ways, become the equivalent of an overdone theme-park vacation. By its end, one is knock-kneed with exhaustion and desperately in need of a genuine opportunity to rest.
A Christmas snow, like the one we’ve just had, does wonders to cull the silence. A few inches of white powder brings an unusual and welcome softening of sound—in cities, the hum of traffic is muffled; in the suburbs even the broom of the ubiquitous snowblower is reduced to a faint and unintrusive whir, one that remains mostly beneath the surface of one’s awareness.
In such a silence, if you have turned off the television and tempted your child away from his games with a good book, you can hear other things: the chatter and call of cardinals who have found the birdseed; the crack of a log in the fire; hot coffee being poured into a cup; the ticking of your last non-digital clock; the rhythmic breathing of tired child (or parent) who has dozed while reading; the soft thud of a book sliding to the floor.
My Tuesday column today, is an invitation to try something radical and different in 2011:
Well, alright then! For 2011, resolve to be here now, and to serve yourself, but do it in this most excellent way: by cultivating silence and overcoming time within one of the classic disciplines of daily prayer—where the pulse of the psalms calms the breath, the pockets of silence center the spirit, and the liturgical calendar frees us from the shackles of time.
For many Christians, this means the Liturgy of the Hours.
There are screens in gas stations, in doctors’ offices, restaurants. There are speakers in airports, on elevators, in our cars. We are bombarded by externally-generated thoughts that muscle in on our own. And often they simply replace our own: hence the tendency to brand our Facebook pages with favorite songs, movies, TV shows, and so on, which allow us “plug and play” personalities. In such a context, silence is like withdrawal.
And there’s the rub: we’ve become addicted to noise, anything that distracts us from cultivating the practice of careful thinking, reflection, and its natural consequent: prayer. For when we think, and reflect upon the things we think about, one effect is a sense of wonder at it all.
Can’t say I disagree with him. It is so difficult to find silence, let alone sit in it. But if we can cultivate a little silence in the day-to-day, then when the times become noisier and more hectic, we find we can draw on what we have learned in our quieter days; we can use a small space of silence to become re-centered before we must enter again into the throng.
For 2011, I can’t help but believe that the world would be a better place, if everyone made a point to discipline themselves, each day, to just a little silence.