As well as hearing loss, I suffer with tinnitus, a sort of high pitch film of sound that lays between my hearing and the world beyond my ears. It is there all the time, but curiously I don’t always notice it. In the hustle and bustle, doing and speaking, listening and looking of the everyday world of ways and means, this thin film of noise fades beneath a torrent of sound and activity. It becomes more noticeable in times of quietness, when I am still, silent in solitude, there it is, a hum along side the stream of thought that the mind is constantly generating.
We were once lucky enough to spend a week on the island of Iona off of the west coast of Scotland. The nearest place with any significant street lighting is over 35 miles away. Iona has no street lights. Walk outside and it is pitch black. On one evening we went out to look for the comet that was passing through the inner part of the solar system at the time, the skies were clear, and looking out into the night I saw it as I have never seen it beforehand I have been star gazer most of my life). Gone was the glow of streets lights reflecting off of the atmosphere, in its place was the glow of thousands of stars I had never seen before.
Last Sunday (December 10th) we had deep snow here, it’s a rare enough event to grind everything to a halt for a few days. Even near the main road in the village it has been still and quiet. Further out in the countryside the silence and stillness were a palpable presence. A friend said ‘That’s what I love about snowfall, the endless silence. How each snowflake muffles the incessant chatter of 21st century noise’.
I wonder how much of our inability to believe, to connect significantly with anything deeper than the ordinary surface of our being, results, at least in part, from a general absence of this kind of deep silence. There is so much noise, so much chatter that we rarely even ‘hear’ the sound of our inner conversations, let alone the still, silent ground of being.
Quaker ‘Faith and Practice’ suggests that we ‘need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength [to] seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life’.
This silence and stillness is not an end in and of itself. I do believe it is a place of becoming whole, healing in the widest sense of that word. It is also a place of prayer, for ‘When you pray, you yourself must be silent... You, yourself must be silent; let the prayer speak.’ *
It is also the ‘well’ out of which our working towards the good of the world will flow’. It is as Thomas Merton put it “to find the place in you where you are here and now being created by God.”
‘For we are what God’s creation, formed and fashioned in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.’ ^
From this still silent place we draw the strength, energy and grace to seek and enact the good.
I don’t say that you will end up a believer (there are reasons other than the noise and distraction of everyday life for not believing). But you might, just for a few moments, find that still centre of your own being, and begin to connect with the being of the other beyond yourself.
* Quoted in Kallistos Ware, ‘The Power in the Name’.
^ Ephesians 2:10 (paraphrased).
Vicar’s thoughts for January 2018