Today’s Word: Silence

Growth happens in silence. George Washington's apples, Mt. Vernon. SJG photo.

This morning, we are sharing our outdoor space with a doe, who has been feeding herself on our friend and neighbor Gerry’s decorative grass and lying quietly in the shade of two small maples, paying little attention to the two humans behind the screen. Together, we seem to all be enjoying the silence of the early Saturday morning before the rest of the world wakes up and begins mowing lawns and puttering around doing the things we humans do.

It’s not really silent, of course. The birds are a noisy lot, and then there’s the distant traffic. Not much we can do about that. But relatively speaking, it’s pretty quiet. Silence, we sometimes think or come to believe, is a “nothingness.” It is the absence of noise. It is the hushing of talk. It is the musical void and even the quieting of our inner voices. And so it is. But it is so much more.

I have come to crave silence, but it is so very hard to find. I go out to the porch in the evening or early in the morning hoping for silence but instead hear the hum of the neighbor’s air conditioner, the jet plane overhead or (worst of all) the distant leaf blower (they should be outlawed). I listened to an interview last year about a researcher who is trying to locate places on the earth that are unaffected by outside “artificial” noise, and his findings are that it is nearly impossible. No matter how far you go into the wilderness, at some point you will be “joined” by the car on the distant highway, the plane high above or some form of audible media.

The researcher, Gordon Hempton, says in the interview: “Not too long ago it was assumed that clean water’s not important, that seeing the stars is not that important. But now it is. And now I think we’re realizing quiet is important, and we need silence. That silence is not a luxury, but it’s essential.”

But I’m not writing just to complain about “these modern days,” for I am as guilty and implicit as everyone else in contributing to the sound. Nevertheless, and however imperfect, silence is imperative for our lives. For it is in silence that we grow, that we form ideas, that we reach out for God. Silence must be sought out and cultivated. We must make room for it. We must make time for it, for it points us toward God. I wrote this poem a few years ago when I was writing on the topic of solitude, which is akin to silence, of course:

In this solitude, this holy quiet
I hear your word in the wind blowing through the trees
In the caw caw caw of the crows (always three times, it seemed)
In the tap tap of a distant woodpecker
In the slap of water on rock at the bottom of the hill.

You speak in my ear
As if standing beside me
As if lingering in my shadow
As if I mattered somehow to you
And I hear words you likely speak to me
All day, everyday
But I cannot hear over the drone of me
Of my busy-ness and hurrying feet.

But here I slow down.
I become quiet.
I listen.
I remind myself
To pray more than “do.”
To reach out more than hold back.
To listen more than speak.

Turn to me.
Say that again.
I am ready to hear.

For silence, as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said, changes us: “The trees, the flowers, the plants grow in silence. The stars, the sun, the moon move in silence. Silence gives us a new perspective.”

Ask yourself in silence: Where is my silent space and what do I find when I go there?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to "Today’s Word: Silence"

  • Judy Oberman says:
  • Jim Davis says:
  • Peter says:
  • Mary says:
Leave a Comment