Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A friend's thoughts on silence

In response to my musings about Quaker silence, my old friend Richard Wood, who lives in the village of Husthwaite in North Yorkshire, writes about his own explorations of silence.

(His reference to “molehills” is a running joke of ours. The hills in question are rolling and gentle, just south of the Yorkshire Moors. He has jokingly disparaged them ever since witnessing our Cascades.)

I enjoyed
your exploration of the depths of silence, especially your search for what might lie beyond the depths.

My mind went in search of the same point made by one of the 19th century novelists. I had to use the Oxford Book of Quotations to track it down: George Eliot, “Middlemarch”: she refers to "that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

Most of us (even those who have "retired" and should have time to do it other ways) spend our lives moving on in search of the next thing to do. When there's not much to do right now I find myself going up and down the stairs in search of something I have just put down — a pen, a piece of paper, anything.

This is straightforward running away from the clamour of one's own silence.

I enjoyed my few visits to the Quakers' silent hours, especially those I did with you, but I find my own silence in the countryside. People say it's impossible to escape the sound of fast roads and aeroplanes, but fortunately it's not true. I take to to molehills behind our house and meditate on silence itself. Or I shut out all thoughts other than the sound of the skylark. Then I think "depth" is the right word for where the mind goes — not downward depth, as in the bottom of the sea, but depth as in the place a great picture might take you.

I'm not as brave as you then in thinking that I might be where God is. Maybe that's because I live in a society that has turned its back on God.

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