Monday, December 14, 2009

Quiet, please

Olfacta has a nice post at her blog about the demise of some—no, let’s be honest—all of the great perfumes we were raised on. She ties this sad development to our revved-up, media-enslaved way of life, and I’m sure she’s right. People in a hurry have no time for difficult beauty.

I happened to read Olfacta’s post right after I’d been out hiking. We had a soft, gray morning here, unusually warm for December. I had the trails to myself, and the solitude was pure pleasure. Moisture dripped from the trees and the birds chattered, but otherwise there was no sound except my footfall on the sloppy path. I stopped for a while and looked up through the trees. My mind became quiet. The words that tumble around my brain all the time turned to smoke and then disappeared altogether.

Something miraculous happens when I silence my talking self. Everything around me becomes alive. The stones, the fallen leaves, even the air shimmers with life.

That moment in the park came back to me as I was thinking about Olfacta’s post. One of the problems with all this “connectedness” is that it has absolutely no place for silence—no place for the silence of solitude, and no place for companionable silence among friends. To fall silent in the world of Facebook and Twitter is tantamount to dying. You cease to exist.

And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.

From "To Live in the Mercy of God" by Denise Levertov. The rest is here.

St. Mary of Egypt, Tintoretto, 1582-87


rockinruby said...

Beautiful post, and oh, so true. So where does that leave us? We're all a part of the social networking fabric, but who do we become with no room for silence?

Julie H. Rose said...

Spot on as usual.

No, there's no room for silence on the Web. The funniest example of this (or the most ridiculous) is the "noisy" Buddhists.

As in all things, we need balance.

stella p said...

Beautiful description of the walk, and the silence. Wish I had been there! I miss so my own walks; winter making "my" path(s) inaccessible for a long time now.

Nika said...

What a beautiful post! I like how comfortable you are with solitude. Lately I feel like I just want to post images, for the reasons you describe...

chayaruchama said...


The Web feels just like that- a web, with all the pitfalls.
Many injuries have we incurred through this connectivity , that, at best- enables us to keep in touch with loved ones out of geographical reach...

But at a HUGE price.

Much as I adore people, I love my solitude.

jmcleod76 said...

Amen and amen. A thousands times amen.

Bozo said...

Lovely and true. Real silence is hard, maybe impossible, to find. I remember Don DeLillo saying that the Arabian desert was so still that you could hear the blood rushing through your veins. You can hear it in a sea shell, certainly. We take our noisy selves with us, either fortunately or unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Maria!

BitterGrace said...

It occurs to me that all of us are extremely verbal people, yet we all crave silence, including interior silence. Odd.

I would never want to give up my online community, but as Chaya says, it costs me something. Of course, so does the flesh and blood community!

Stella, if you ever decide to take a break from those Northern winters, you're welcome to visit here. You might tire of the rain, though.

Alyssa said...

Ah! You must read The Book of Silence, by Sara Maitland. It's a wonderful, quirky, incorrigible, argumentative book about craving silence by and author who is all of those things, plus a longtime (noisy) feminist, fiction writer, and mother of--I think it's five children. Blocked that part out. In her fifties, divorced and with her children grown, she begins to crave silence and, as she says, "I wanted something, and I was in a position to get what I wanted." Luckily for us, she documented her explorations and her self-questioning. She addresses many of the things you've brought up here, and many others... I've already given my copy away and have plans to do so with the next one I get.

BitterGrace said...

Thank you, Alyssa. That book sounds terrific. I'll definitely seek it out.