Cultivating Silence

Cultivating Silence March 28, 2010

Today at mass, our priest decided that the Gospel Narratives of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem, his arrest, trial and crucifixion all spoke for themselves. He decided that instead of a homily we should try to sit in silence, reflect on all of it, and begin to become “acquainted with silence; learn to welcome it, rather than fear it.”

So, we sat in silence.

And at the recessional, there was no song. Just silence.

You could tell that people were uneasy. Silence is difficult, because if you welcome it and cultivate it long enough, it brings you face-to-face with yourself, in all your shame and glory.

It’s so much easier to move to the noise than to sit with the self, and with all that is greater than that.

People really don’t know what to do with silence, and we live in an age full of noise.

For Holy Week, I am going cultivate silence in my life. No John Mayer blasting in the car. No videos. No radio. No “background wallpaper noise.” No unnecessary talking.

I’m going to encourage it on the blog, too, offering a little experiment of silence. We’re currently in an age of rage, and part of that is the people screaming at each other via keyboards.

It gets addictive, the back-and-forth of the nether-ether. And it is so easy to vent your inner noise -put it out there for the rest of the world- add to your noise, add to their noise. Increase the volume until it is indecipherable noise; the din of a million conversations that create “sound and fury signifying nothing.”

The experiment is this: I am shutting off comments for Holy Week.

So, if you read something you like, or dislike here, you will not have the opportunity to spit it out through your fingers.

I invite you, instead, to ponder the response you were going to make, and ponder the responses and arguments you would thereby encounter (you already know what your own responses will be, and what everyone else’s responses are; they are repeated ad nauseam, throughout the internets). Then, after you’ve considered all of that, consider what is making you grit your teeth, and increase your heartrate. What is making you facial muscles set into a permanent state of snarl or smugness, even -its seems- in repose. Consider the astonishing amount of energy you’ve just expended, to contribute to the noise; consider all the noise you’re welcoming into your heart and mind and spirit. And then, put it aside.

Just brush it aside and try simply being quiet for a few minutes.

It takes a while to stop the monkeychatter in the brain. But try to let that run itself out, like a spool of film, that goes clackety-clackety-clack and then whirrrs down to silence. And breathe and get quiet.

We are all much too comfortable with our noise, and distrustful and edgy around the silence.

But the noise feeds the chaos. The chaos feeds something else.

Let’s stop feeding it.

Let’s feed our spirits a little.

Let’s not take the bait. Let’s not bait others. In a week, the world will still be with us. But perhaps by getting a little quiet, we’ll have come to understand a little -just a little- about the uselessness of a day’s fretting and fighting, in the scope of Eternity.

And we’ll be better able to identify the illusions that spring forth and abide in a whirlwind.

Let’s get quiet.

I’ll file it under, “remaking ourselves.”

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