Everybody should have his personal sounds to listen for- sounds that will make him exhilarated and alive or quite and calm. One of the greatest sounds of them all-and to me it is a sound- is utter, complete silence.
I haven’t been watching much television lately but I did a few nights ago. Earlier in the evening I survived a breathless used car commercial featuring overlapping shouts. There was no space between sentences and little chance to process anything being said. I think the point was to get people excited about buying a car with no time to consider the decision rationally. Later in the evening I watched a new show about a group of men going to a Benedictine monastery to reassess their lives. They were to spend six weeks there and live as the monks did.
One of the chief features of monastery life is extended periods of silence. The point is for the monks to have time to listen to God and to their own thoughts. The men were invited to try the monastic way of life. When I was younger I spent several years living in a monastery. I found myself thinking back to the times when I had periods of silence built into my daily routine.
I don’t think I appreciated silence then. I was young, restless and brash. Silence was a time when I couldn’t be doing something useful. There have been many times in my life since then when I have wished to have some silence to gather my thoughts and consider the direction of my life. I had forgotten that I have a choice of how I spent my time that I could choose to have all the silence I wanted. Instead I chose to immerse myself in the cacophony of everyday life.
There is a line from the movie Cabaret, “What Good is Sitting Alone in Your Room?” What good is standing in a forest, by the seashore or in a silent snowfall? We all enter this world alone and leave it alone. Silence gives us a chance to keep in touch with the person we are between birth and death. Being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely. The alternative is to rush headlong in whatever direction the crowd is going, even if we are in a pack of lemmings headed for a cliff.
What would it be like if every person in the world took time to be alone? What would happen if everyone listened to their thoughts and then shared them with each other? What if we all listened to each other as we shared our thoughts? Most of us are in a hurry. I wonder how many of us think about where we are headed or what we will do when we reach our destinations.
- Choose some time today to be with yourself in silence.
- See how hard it is to shut off the outside world.
- See if you can be comfortable just being alone with yourself.
- Listen to hear your dreams, hopes and fears.
- Later tell someone you care about what you learned.
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