“Silence is the universal refuge.” Henry David Thoreau
“I began to practice creating as much external silence as I could. The television was unplugged, and a large Japanese screen placed in front of it . . . . Television is not an enemy, at least not to me. . . . I just need to let go of that part of me that’s addicted to noise and movement of any kind. Bill and television together create a frightful synergy of torpor and listlessness. I stopped listening to the radio in my car, and I only play music in my home when I’m actually listening to it, doing nothing else. I was amazed to find that I, great fan of the blues, didn’t know the lyrics to half the songs I had in my library. The music had been, well, background noise. As the days turned to weeks and months, and then, a year or two had gone by, something happened. I began to seek silence, more and more. Noise hurt.” William Alexander
“There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden, or even in your bathtub.” Elizabeth Kubla-Ross
“The Desert Fathers and Mothers focused on these primary practices in their search for God: 1) leaving, to some extent, the systems of the world; 2) a degree of solitude to break from the maddening crowd; 3) times of silence to break from the maddening mind; and 4) ‘technologies’ for controlling the compulsivity of mind and the emotions. All of this was for the sake of growing a person capable of love and community.” Richard Rohr
“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of God.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If only you would be altogether silent!”
Job 13:5 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- “Social distancing” has created an epidemic of loneliness. I want to hear the voice of someone–anyone. At the same time I need times of silence “to break from the maddening mind.” Could you use such a break?
- I love the idea of sitting in the tub, alone in the dark–quiet, warm water, bubbles. I remember reading about Michael J. Fox doing that for hours after his Parkinson’s diagnosis–because it was all he could do–and to sort things out. As Thoreau says, silence can be a refuge. Can you come up with a way to experiment with silence as a “technology” for controlling the maddening mind? . . . to experience that “universal refuge?” . . . as a way of hearing “the whispers of God” now, when maybe you need them the most?
Abba, let me often disappear into the silence–to quiet myself, to experience peace, to hear your whisper.
For More: Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox
“One of the first important truths is, you’re crazy. Not you, as it were; all of us, that all of us are deeply damaged people. The great enemy of love, good relationships, good friendships, is self-righteousness. If we start by accepting that of course we’re only just holding it together, and in many ways, really quite challenging people . . . . I think if somebody thinks that they’re easy to live with, they’re by definition going to be pretty hard [to live with] and don’t have much of an understanding of themselves. I think there’s a certain wisdom that begins by knowing that of course you, like everyone else, are pretty difficult. And this knowledge is very shielded from us. Our parents don’t tell us, our ex-lovers—they knew it, but they couldn’t be bothered to tell us. They sacked us without . . . [Krista: by the time they tell us, we’re dismissing what they say anyway.] That’s right. And our friends don’t tell us because they just want a pleasant evening with us. So we’re left with a bubble of ignorance about our own natures. And often, you can be way into your 40s before you’re starting to get a sense of, ‘Well, maybe some of the problem is in me.’ Because of course, it’s so intuitive to think that of course it’s the other person. So to begin with that sense of, ‘I’m quite tricky and in these ways.’ That’s a very important starting point for being good at love. So often we blame our lovers; we don’t blame our view of love. So we keep sacking our lovers and blowing up relationships all in pursuit of this idea of love which actually has no basis in reality. [Krista: This right person, this creature does not exist.] And [this idea of love] is, in fact, the enemy of good enough relationships.” Alain de Botton in a conversation with Krista Tippett
“Cast all your anxiety on [God]
because [God] cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Are you just “holding it together in many ways?” Does your partner know that you know this?
- Do you assume that “sheltering in place” would be easy if not for your difficult partner?
- Can you take a deep breath and consider how difficult you can be? . . . how complicated your partner may be (how needy, broken, well intentioned)? . . . how skewed both of your ideas of love may be?
Abba, help me to understand, and remember, how tricky it is to live with me–and love me.
For More: The Course of Love by Alain du Botton
“Because of Covid-19, many of us are living, in a way, like monks, enclosed and isolated in our homes. But unlike the monks, we did not ask for or want this situation, nor it is one for which many of us were spiritually prepared. [Even so] we can use this moment to live into and be freed by the realization that there is much we cannot control. So much of our anxiety revolves around wanting to control the uncontrollable, and the pandemic can teach us the futility of this. . . . we need to be attentive to the present moment and so focus on that which we can control: ‘If I can concentrate on being in control of that very small circle of reality that is entrusted to me and in some sense depends on me—how I use my time, how I take care of myself, how I care for my family and friends, how I daily and hourly turn my concerns over to God—then my anxiety diminishes.’ This is ‘a great opportunity to yield control of our lives, to let ourselves truly trust in the goodness and providence of God amidst all that is happening.’ Whether we are aware of it or not, ‘we are living in the presence of a living, caring and loving God,’ . . . and we can use this time of quarantine to develop, alone or with those with whom we live, a sense of this divine presence.” Gregory Hills, quoting several monks he interviewed
“Merton sought refuge in the Trappist monastery . . . ‘in revolt against the meaningless confusion of a life in which there was so much activity, so much movement, so much useless talk, so much superficial and needless stimulation’ that he could not remember who he was. For the next half of his life he learned a new way of being . . . and [made the] discovery of a new self, his true self, drawn up like a jewel from seas of confusion, restlessness, and banality.” Kathleen Deignan, quoting Thomas Merton
“Cast all your anxiety on him
because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Was your pre-covid life characterized by too much activity, useless talk, superficial stimulation?
- Have you quit trying to control the uncontrollable? Can you focus instead on what has been “entrusted” to you?
- Might God be calling to you in this time of pain–inviting you to be drawn up “like a jewel from seas of confusion, restlessness, and banality?”
Abba, may my seemingly unmanageable anxiety force me to cast myself upon you.
For More: Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours by Kathleen Deignan
“If [as the Burt Bacharach song says] Loneliness Remembers (what happiness forgets) then the emptiness of loneliness reminds me of what happiness does not remind me of. That God is more, is greater, fuller – limitless, even. When I am spent He is still full and longing for me to turn, in my vulnerability and scatteredness, to His vast heart of loving provision for my soul. When I feel forsaken and alone – in those moments – I am gifted with an innate holy prodding to submit to no other substitute for satisfaction or comfort. So as great as happiness is in its moment, loneliness by contrast, is not a dead end. It is a navigational aid.” Jennifer @ blogspot
“Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. If I were once to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life, with its divisions and its clichés, it would be time to call in the undertaker…. So, then, this dissatisfaction which sometimes used to worry me and has certainly, I know, worried others, has helped me in fact to move freely and even gaily with the stream of life.” … “Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.” Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
“If only one person would show some pity;
if only one would turn and comfort me.”
- Many people run from problems like loneliness, depression, and despair. Can you imagine these unwanted feelings as a kind of unexpected or disguised gift?
- Have you ever allowed loneliness, depression or despair to be a “navigational aid” to lead you to God? What exactly would that look like for you?
- Can you see “downward mobility” in all of this – that what seems painful and frustrating might actually be beneficial? …that “downward mobility” might be far superior to “upward mobility?”
Abba, remind me when this happens to me.
For More: No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton
Song for the day: It Is Well With My Soul