Thomas Merton, a somewhat mystical Catholic monk I’ve been prone to read, has impressed me with his strong commitment to silence. In an age of action and commotion, is this a call worth heeding? Can we be quiet in the storms of life?
Like nervous electrons, we like to keep moving in constant circles, only thinking of our being in terms of action and what we have been doing recently. This constant motion and outside analysis cannot bring peace with one’s self, and we become distanced from what we truly are (whatever that might be). I love this quote in a book of his essential writings: “When we are quiet, not just for a few minutes, but for an hour or several hours, we may become uneasily aware of the presence within us of a disturbing stranger, the self that is both ‘I’ and someone else.” Merton’s concept of the stranger is an eerie ghost to most of us who have taken too little time to seek inward, into the center of our being, where silence is the only communication and the key to self-discovery.
This silence is not easy for a generation that has put action and outer self-satisfaction above all else. We prize our rewards for hard work as our homes fill with items of our conquests here and there. We’re not used to quiet stillness. It is scary, like a horror movie, we might accidentally reflect, accidentally be silent for a minute, and we become disturbed by the stirrings of what is within us, perhaps lying dormant until that time when we’re listening and processing what it might be.
I’ve been reminded by Merton that the actions we must take before we help the world are the actions that are, as he says, “non-actions” and “the quiet of worship, the reverent peace of prayer, the adoration in which the entire ego-self silences and abases itself in the presence of the Invisible God,” this way we would receive “his one word of love.” And if we lived without this “one word,” we would be cursed to live within a life of illusion, like the electron, the ever-spinning slave promoting the goals of a world that is hell-bent on action, instead of the heavenward non-actions of contemplation and prayer.
So, as the world spins (and it does not stop for anyone), when will we make time to disengage and hear what heaven is really calling out to us? There is a real danger that even the best and most righteous follower of God, whose entire life has been devoted to doing good works, and whose energy has been poured outward, may find that the superhuman effort didn’t bring the rewards they’d hoped for — something was missing. If we just take the time listening, whispering, contemplating the word of God, and seeking the will of our creator, we may find ourselves rejuvenated and more alive.
Don’t let busyness take hold of you. Say “no” to some good things, say “no” to all evil things, and say “yes” to being enveloped by God’s love. Be continually transformed by the moments of grace and appreciate that God is everywhere; you are never alone. This moment is your moment: Close your eyes, be still, listen and know, “You are loved.”
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