I came across this quote today:
“I consider it no less a virtue to know how to keep silence at the proper time than to speak well. It seems to me that man ought to have a neck as long as a crane’s, so that each of his words may pass through many knots before leaving his mouth.”
I am from a great line of talkers. The answer to any question you may ask one of us, will assuredly (and without apology) come wrapped in a complicated layer of packaging that includes a painted backdrop of the story, the sights, smells and sounds that are in the scene, and an analytical delve into the main character’s psyche that would make even Jane Austen feel over-informed. My mom explains it like this: once she was listening to one of her sister’s relate an incident, when the teenage daughter of said-Aunt interrupted and corrected her mother’s story at every turn. Finally, my mother, the authority on tea-bag-soaked stories (served with cookies for dipping), stopped my cousin on the spot. “Please”, she said with the far-reaching pat of the hand, “I like the way your mother tells it. Your way is boring.”
With that being said in too many words as usual, I have found a new love for something in life; something that used to terrify me. Silence. I have found that listening to a good story, and producing a gut-wrenching laugh that makes your adrenaline soar and your cheeks ache, is always healthy and wonderful, but just as healthy and necessary is a good dose of silence.
Silence takes many forms as we know, we can certainly start with talking less as our quote suggests, and there is always unplugging our technology, turning off the music, and ceasing the constant commentaries on our likes and dislikes of current events and creature comforts; but deeper than that we must go into a quiescence. We must create a deep space within ourselves that leaves a vacancy for God’s voice. Mother Theresa begins her “Simple Path” book with the concept of Silence. Our “inner room”, she refered to, where we lock the door and allow only the voice of God. All things in her simple path to God, begin with silence.
Not only can silence be healing, but it is necessary. When we busy ourselves with so much discussion of what Jane Austen so appropriately called “a succession of busy nothings”, we find that eventually we feel empty. Why? Today’s morning prayer was with a book by Fulton Sheen, “Finding True Happiness”; a tiny read which compiles some of the famous bishop’s writings on happiness and joy. Every sentence is quotable and a nugget for contemplation in itself, but as we prepare to head toward our Spiritual Exercises at the end of the month, a yearly retreat into time alone with God, I leave you with another thought on silence; I pray that we all take this path to happiness and holiness seriously in our lives.
We live in the most talkative age in the history of the world. It would take ten or fifteen million men in previous ages to communicate to others the same information which one person today provides in a single broadcast. The love of noise and excitement in modern civilization is due in part to the fact that people are unhappy on the inside. Noise exteriorizes them, distracts them, and makes them forget their worries for the moment. There is an unmistakable connection between an empty life and a hectic pace. To make progress the world must have action, but it most also know why it is acting, and that requires thought, contemplation and silence. –Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen