Monday, February 2, 2009

The splendour of silence

There is an spirit of stillness and silence about this picture by Fra Angelico. The artist shows Christ being mocked and crowned with thorns. He is blindfolded, but in the silence he sees and hears all. Mary sits beneath,-- pondering these things in her heart. On the other side is St. Dominic with the Gospel on his knees, as he keeps Our Lady company, meditating on the mystery. I have already described the Rosary as so many stepping stones to silence.

Aldous Huxley remarked that the 20th century was the Age of Noise: He spoke of radio nothing as a medium through which din can flow into our homes. What might he have thought of the tyranny of the Box in the corner of the living room?

John Connell founder of the UK Noise Abatement Society noted, "noise is the forgotten pollutant in our society," Given the important relationship between silence and the ability to think, it is no wonder we live in a more thoughtless society. These days a hospital ward with its hustle and bustle, is no more immune to the scourge of noise than a panel- beater's workshop. So writes George Winterfrom whom I have been borrowed some of these lines.

George Winter continues: "It is worth reiterating what has been known for some time: Noise can induce hearing loss, delay healing, impair immune function, raise blood pressure, and increase stress.

At our JOHN MAIN meditation group in the Dominican Priory, Tallaght, one of our speakers read from George Winter's article and went on to speak of discovering the wonder of our own being, and the delight we experience, as we listen to the inner rhythm that issues from silence and stillness. We become like the infant resting on its mother's breast as mentioned in Psalm 131: I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a child at its mother’s breast; like ac child that is quieted is my soul.

Observe the active tone of those verbs—stilled and quieted. It is not a matter of things just happening by some fortunate chance. The author of the Psalm has taken definite steps to ensure that stillness and silence work their way into the mind and heart and soul. Silence is not the simple negation of noise. It is a dynamic and positive drive that lets life flourish and become a blessing to all around. How often we find healing in the haven of stillness that emanates from a person of peaceful silence. Lord make me an instrument of your peace.

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