I spent the better part of yesterday fumbling through a post following up on last week’s topic of simplicity. I wanted to explore the idea of silence as a discipline of simplicity and how our societal noise has created a lack of compassion for one another. I wrote a line, erased it, wrote another and erased that one, too. I became easily distracted by my surroundings – songbirds, the squawking jay, the newly popped leaves against a Carolina spring sky. Colors and dazzle just filled my ears and my mind with wonder, keeping me from too much seriousness.
Oh, and the lizards. It seems every spring we have more lizards and that is wonderful, because lizards are some of my favorites. On my pansy pots they streak purple, pink and dirty green. On my holly bushes, they match the bushes’ freshly budded leaves. On my wicker cushions, they are mottled – brown and rust and dapple grey. Lizards are such color stunt artists… and to think they choose my garden as home.
There is simplicity. Filling oneself with the glories of creation. Becoming the colors of the sky and new leaves, the lizards, the songs of birds, breathing in their scent – entering in and becoming part God’s artwork.
I am nearly finished with Foster’s book on Simplicity.Much of it I have enjoyed. As usual, I have marked it all over – underlining key sentences, making notes in the front of the book so I remember my underlining. Still his most important statement – for me – was about silence and compassion. The trick to silence is the ability to silence the voice in my head as well as the voice that is audible. Here is a talent I find nearly impossible to master. My brain is always.talking. Even in the quiet morning when I commit to meditation and silence so I can “hear the voice of the Lord,” my mind doesn’t cooperate. I think it is one reason why I devour books as I do – it gives my thoughts some company, something to have a conversation with – and that helps it settle down, not usually all the way to silence, however.
Then again, silence isn’t void. Void is emptiness. It is the man’s soul swept clean of the evil spirit Jesus once told about; a soul so clean and empty the evil spirit came back, found it a desirable place to be and brought seven of his evil friends to join him. “And the final condition of the man was worse than the first.” (Luke 11: 24-26)
Silence is a mind at ease, open and inviting of God’s goodness and simple glory. It is quieted of its own ideas and the ideas of others (which is why books can’t bring me to total silence) so the ears have room to hear and the heart has room to receive. I find silence in the inhale of piano playing (even my own plucking), staring at the colors of new leaves against heaven blue sky, sketching the Lenten roses in my English garden, journal writing freely without rules, stigmas or fears attached to it.
The noise of the internet isn’t going away. Believers and unbelievers, saints and sinners will continue to share and encourage and judge and opine one another online ‘til we squeeze the last ounce of compassion right out of our collective selves, then we’ll just die from sheer noise (I know – the drama!). It’s funny, because here I am, contributing to the noise by being on Facebook and Twitter (barely), and writing a blog (somewhat regularly). Should I stop those things? Stop adding to the chaos? But, if the world is going to live online, shouldn’t we be a part of that? Honestly, how can we not – either as clickers, writers or some of both?
Maybe the key isn’t trying to live completely without media – at this point, I think to live completely disengaged from it would be like living in a void and we’ve already seen what happens to a ‘house completely swept clean’. Media can – and should – occupy a space, albeit a very limited space chosen with extreme care, and ONLY after we’ve been sufficiently filled with silence.