Monday, November 28, 2011

The Soundness of Silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
- Paul Simon

In my last post, I made my best attempt at expressing the beauty and necessity of what can often be one of the most challenging spiritual disciplines. Yet even in its difficulty, silence really is profoundly beneficial as well as foundational to the Advent season. I began thinking that for all the poetic attempts of the last blog entry, there wasn't much offered in terms of what silence might actually look like in our day-to-day life. After all, most of our daily interactions require verbal communication on some level. While I certainly am no expert on the subject, I would like to suggest just one way that we can practice silence and maybe begin to enter more deeply into the reality of God's presence: take rests.

When listening to our favorite music, we may not think much about the rests (pauses between the notes) involved, but music wouldn't be music without them. Without rests, our favorite songs would be reduced to a messy blend of noise. The same is true of our lives. When we plow through our days with no momentary pauses, no centered attention or consideration, our hearts and minds become cluttered with dissonant sounds. On the other hand, when we allow rests to become part of our daily experience, not only will we get a moment of refreshment from the racket, but the sounds of our day will begin to have the context they need to form a melody.

How might we allow rests throughout our day? It's as simple as pausing for a moment from whatever we are doing and being present to God, to ourselves, and to the people and places around us. It's the opposite of being somewhere while at the same time being "somewhere else." In a rest, we turn our attention to God as His presence pervades all we see, hear, and experience. We're not causing God's presence to occur; we're merely acknowledging and momentarily attending to the constant reality we are mostly too noisy to notice. We do not rest to escape reality; we rest to enter reality. And there is a lot of reality in a single moment.

When should we take rests? In the beginning, we take rests whenever we remember to take them. Eventually, we take them whenever we become aware that one is happening. When you begin to hear the melody, you also begin to hear the rests.

In the bustling noise of our lives, we can often talk without speaking. We can often hear without listening. But as we learn to live in step with the Spirit, we learn to speak without talking. We learn to listen without hearing. There is a soundness to silence, if we will only rest in it.

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