Monday, November 13, 2017
Holy, Holy, Holy Silence
Yesterday we drove to Prince Edward County for two rambles through the woods. One was along the shore of Lake Ontario at Lakeshore Lodge Point in Sandbanks Park. We walked the entire trail by ourselves with only the sound of waves and the crunch of fallen leaves under our feet. On our return trip we stopped in to Beaver Meadow Wildlife Management Area, a small gem with lovely trails. It was quieter here away from the water. We saw a red-tailed hawk and a blue heron in flight. The chickadees and nuthatches were really the only "noise" of our walk. We made our way in companionable silence for the most part, but at one point Ruth offered "holy, holy, holy." And it was.
Last week I came upon a New York Times article about a Norwegian explorer named Erling Kagge who once spent 50 days in the Antarctic without human contact. He has written a soon to be released book called, fittingly, Silence in the Age of Noise. In the Times article writer Steven Kurutz describes Kagge's attempt to find silence in the Big Apple. It proves elusive. A secluded churchyard is filled with the noise of nearby construction/ Kagge eventually comes close in one of the lesser known art galleries, the Frick.
How do we get away from "the unwanted sounds of everything we want" and do we really desire it? Kagge observes about his Antarctic journey “When you start, you have all the noise in your head,” adding that by his journey’s end, “You feel your brain is wider than the sky. You’re a guy being part of this bigness, this greatness. To be alone and experience the silence feels very safe, very meaningful...I'm not recommending people move into a monastery, we’re social beings. But in the silence, you meet yourself.”
Honestly, silence can be terrifying for people, and it doesn't require a trip to the Antarctic for that dread to set in. A fair number of worshippers in churches I served admitted that even the one minute of silence included in the service made them uncomfortable. Yet how do we hear God and our own inner stirrings if we don't embrace silence? As the years of ministry went by I felt increasingly "Quaker-ish", wishing for fewer words and more listening.
On our return from PEC we were almost immediately assaulted by the "mosquito from hell" whining of two leaf-blowers on our court. Why does there have to be a machine for every task we somehow managed by hand a generation ago?
Speaking of whining, I'll stop. And I'll continue to seek the silence.
Thoughts? You can express them with nothing more than the clatter of your keyboard!
Kagge in the churchyard of of St. Luke in the Fields, New York City