In silence secrets speak
June 19, 2008
These days, some part of every day is spent in silence. I haven't become an ascetic. It just works out that way when your day is your own. DC scurries from one task to another from daybreak to exhaustion, and we meet up for a few minutes near noon and awhile longer after she returns from work. My days for now lack the need to be somewhere and someplace unless I choose to. It is a quality of freedom remembered from boyhood summers when sandlot baseball games and swimming pools were all the world that mattered.
Because I am alone more than usual doesn't mean I am lonely. Galway Kinnell's poem "When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone" details some effects of complete aloneness: The willingness to spare flies from swatting, attending to the sounds of mourning doves and grasshoppers as if they were inner voices, perhaps a feeling of estrangement from your own species. Kinnell didn't want to fall down that well, and neither do I.
But spending time alone and in silence can be helpful, too. Of all the friends we have, a friendship with our own self can be the most prickly. We love our friends, especially their warts and foibles, but hardly give ourselves a break. Yet this friend, our true self, guides our life and has never hurt us. It's just that sometimes we don't like winding up in the dead ends and graveyards this friend wants us to visit for our own good.
The battle between the ego that heroically protects and promotes us and the soul that wants us to learn all there is to learn rages every second. In silence it momentarily ceases.
Rumi says: "There is a thread from the heart to the lips where the secret of life is woven. Words tear the thread, but in silence the secrets speak."
Silence can seem threatening in a world that so seldom is quiet. When dinner conversation turns silent it's awkward. Around here, when the birds stop chirping, look out for a storm. Have you ever found a silent library? The mind seeks stimulation and when that can't be found will take distraction. But even to attempt to still the mind has rewards.
Even when I work now it occurs in silence. No one else is in the room, except perhaps Lucy or Hank at my feet. In silence you can listen for the words that seem truest, that spring from your being.
Rumi: "Blessed is the poem that comes through me but not of me because the sound of my own music will drown the song of Love."
Driving across the breathtaking western part of Canada last month I steered and took in the wonder of the land. Jackson Browne and Dave Matthews kept me company once I reached the prairie. One sang to the higher part of me, one to the lower. Both parts want to hear the music.
In a month or so this idyll of complete freedom will end and my new job will begin. But this time of silence and of being alone will stay with me always.
Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.