This is my Father's world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker's praise.
This is my Father's world: He shines in all that's fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

- Maltbie D. Babcock

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Silence, please

 This week my husband and I enjoyed a little midwinter break at a Scandinavian spa. After a soak in a hot pool, I sat ensconced in my robe in a relaxation room in front of a large picture window. I was starting a new book that I’d brought along: “This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good.  By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all along, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be. So this is the work I’m doing now, and the work I invite you into: when life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate.  And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” (Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet)  Good stuff. As I looked up from my book, I saw that fat snowflakes had begun drifting down. Above the trees, a huge hawk circled.  It was a moment of perfect, silent serenity.

Silence is meant to be the order of the day at this spa. As it says on their website, “The value of silence -- With a quiet and tranquil environment the soul is able to see what was once elusive. Silence clears a path for thought and reflection. At Scandinave Spa silence is at the heart of the experience so the guest can realize complete relaxation, wellness and rejuvenation.”  Yet as I left the quiet room and made my way through the various pools and saunas, I was confronted at every turn by noise. Despite the signs posted everywhere reading, “Quiet please, Respect the silence, Enjoy the tranquility,” couples and groups of singles congregated as if attending a kegger, speaking to each other at full volume.  One gaggle gathered by the waterfall, talking loud enough to drown out the sound of the water. A group of girls posed in a hot pool, carrying contraband cell phones and giggling as they took selfies. I entered the steam room, passing through the door bearing a large sign urging “ABSOLUTE SILENCE.”  Inside, a group of workmates chattered incessantly – and I’m not talking about intelligent conversation or essential information being transmitted.  No, this was a pointless exchange of banalities about the temperature of the sauna (surprise – it’s hot in there!), who’s wearing what, who said what to whom at the office… It was clear that most of the talking that was going on was simply to shield against the “discomfort” of silence. (I imagine that if you challenged these people about their noncompliance, they would counter with something along the lines of “We paid for this; we can talk if we want.” But that argument doesn’t fly, given that the rest of us paid for the advertised tranquility and quiet, and we can’t get what WE paid for while they continue to natter.  But I digress.)


All of this served to bring into sharp relief for me just how uncomfortable our society has become with silence and self-reflection.  For most of us, our waking hours are inundated with noise and other sensory stimuli, most of it of our own choosing.  Conversation by way of phone, text, Facebook or email; television; music piped through earbuds; movies; video games – anything and everything but stillness.  We are at once more connected and more disconnected than we’ve ever been. It all makes me very curious as to why so many of us avoid quiet. Are we afraid to be alone with our own thoughts?  If so, why? Or are we afraid of what we might hear in the silence? As one who has learned to appreciate silence, I highly recommend it.  Who knows, you just might hear the voice of God.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

This has actually been on my heart a lot lately - the need for silence so I can hear God's voice. If I ask for direction, but never listen for the answer, whose fault is that?