Madeleine L’Engle – the well-known author of A Wrinkle in Time and many other works of both fiction and nonfiction – is a writer I return to again-and-again when I’m looking for wisdom from a different perspective. As Candice and I took time off this past weekend to celebrate our anniversary, I found time to re-read L’Engle’s Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage, which is the one book both of us included several years ago on a list of influential readings.
Reading that book made me think of L’Engle’s other writings, selections of which became the basis for a collection of daily readings entitled Glimpses of Grace. Over the weekend I looked at the reading for March 20th. It was titled “The Blessing of Silence” and while the references to transistors and records are dated, it is still worth a read.
“Why are we so afraid of silence? Teenagers cannot study without their records; they walk along the street with their transistors. Grownups are as bad if not worse; we turn on the TV or the radio the minute we come into the house or start the car. The pollution of noise in our cities is as destructive as the pollution of our air. We show our fear of silence in our conversation: I wonder if the orally minded Elizabethans used “um” and “er” the way we do? And increasingly prevalent is what my husband calls an articulated pause: “You know.” We interject “you know” meaninglessly into every sentence, in order that the flow of our speech should not be interrupted by such a terrifying thing as silence. If I look to myself, I find, as usual, contradiction….Yet when I went on my first retreat I slipped in silence as though into the cool waters of the sea. I felt totally, completely, easily at home in silence. With the people I love most I can sit in silence indefinitely.
We need both for our full development; the joy of the sense of sound; and the equally great joy of its absence.”
As we go through our work day (in our open office spaces), as well as our time with friends and family, silence can be a welcomed change in a world filled with noise. As L’Engle says, we need both for our full development.
Think about when and how silence can enhance your life, and have a good week.
More to come…