Monday, February 21, 2005

Practicing Silence

Rich Mullins used to drive from gig to gig with the radio off in the car. Said he was practicing silence. I think that's probably partly the case--he, as a musician, was also probably just sick of music all the time and welcomed the break--but regardless, my wife helped remind me of the value of just being quiet tonight.

She turned the TV off after a program she'd wanted to watch and, when I offered to turn on some music, she said, "Do we have to have something on?" My initial thought was, "Of course; why wouldn't we?" But Lent is approaching, and part of the focus is stillness, simplicity, silence. So I paused, shrugged, and said, "No; I guess not"--and immediately felt more at ease with everything around me, more focused, more there. I know I've read quotes from fathers of the Church about being present in the moment, but the version of that thought that's stuck with me is a quote from either Jim Elliot or Nate Saint, two Evangelical missionaries who were killed by natives in Ecuador: "Wherever you are, be all there; live to the hilt any situation you believe to be the will of God."

That "being all there" is only fully realized through stillness, the ability to find one's focus and peace with no outside stimuli. Or, as Pascal famously put it, "All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone."

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