Tuesday, December 26, 2006

silence. simplicity. solitude.

"We in the "developed" world seem to have many auditory strategies that insulate us from the presence of silence, simplicity, and solitude. When I return to Western culture after time in desert, mountain or forest, I discover how we have filled our world with a multiplicity of noises, a symphony of forgetfulness that keeps our won thoughts and realizations, feelings and intuitions out of audible range." --Joan Halifax: The Fruitful Darkness

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature--trees, flowers, grass--grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...we need silence to be able to touch souls." --Mother Teresa

source: the Quote Lady

I find myself nodding in agreement with both these quotes, especially the first one. It is difficult to explain to those who haven't experienced it, but coming out of a time of intentional, wonderful silence back into the "real" world, is like going from the Garden of Eden to a scrap yard. We have grown so used to the noise all around us, when we intentionally step away from it all, and then step back into it, it's a wonder that we aren't all insane.

Come to think of it, I'm not so certain many of us truly are sane.

I do not make New Years resolutions, nor do I make resolutions of any kind, as I found that any sort of vow I make usually ends up in failure any way. Some of the wisest words ever spoken were when Jesus told his followers "Let your yes be "yes" and your no, no....anything beyond that is from the Devil." (Matthew 5:37) In other words, just do what you know you should, and stop doing that which is harmful, no need to get religious about it.

As strange as it seems, Jesus was probably the most irreligious person who ever lived, even more so than the Buddha or Socrates. It's absolutely stunning how we have turned his simple precepts into a circus of religious devotions. But then again, we human beings like that sort of thing, don't we? Buddha and Socrates faired no better.

While I'm not quite sure I would call them resolutions, I do plan to put into effect the three cardinal virtues of the spiritual life, effective immediately. Those three cardinal virtues being silence, simplicity, and solitude...in everything.

SILENCE: This is more than just keeping my own mouth shut, but keeping other voices to a minimum as well, including those that come from radio and TV. I guess that's why I love reading and the Internet so much....so much of that sort of activity can be done in silence (with the exception of YouTube and iTunes of course...) Most of the pain and suffering in my life has come--and does come--from people who can't shut up.

SOLITUDE: I absolutely LOVE solitude! Being alone is the most awesome spiritual experience available to man, as long as he can stand himself. If you can't stand yourself, then you are in desperate need of solitude. The thing we most fear is being alone with ourselves. Once that fear is overcome, we soon find, to our utter surprise and amazement, that being alone means never having to be alone, for it is when you are alone that you can most sense the presence of God. It is also in aloneness where you can most come to a self-understanding and even a self-appreciation that will not happen through any other means.

SIMPLICITY: Perhaps the most difficult of the three, especially in this modern world. I am fortunate to work with many senior citizens and retirees, and looking at the world through their eyes, I'm amazed at the magnitude of complexity our lives have taken on in the past thirty to forty years, mostly do to the information revolution, along with electronics. For all the good electronics have done, the world is a far, far, far more complex place than it ever has been, and it's not getting any better. Rather than simplify, with each advance in technology, the world becomes even more complex, in an exponential fashion. There's no going back, except via intention.

One bizarre thing I did this year--and this from a person who has been fascinated by computers and electronics for thirty years--I went back to keeping a hand-written balance of my checking account, rather than using Quicken or Microsoft Money. Why have I done such a old-fashioned thing? Because I'm really getting fed up with some of the aspects of the software industry, and their practices. I don't find keeping my accounts on computer to be very beneficial at all. If I need to, I can still access my balance and transactions via the internet, which is very useful.

I've also purchased a bunch of used 35mm camera equipment, and hope to use that more throughout the years, and leave my digital camera in the bag. I don't care if I do have to pay to develop the pictures, there is something about film and film cameras that charms me in a way digital cameras never can, and this from an early adapter of digital cameras.

Next to go: my debit card. Though debit cards have certainly made things very, very simple to a certain extent, I'm not sure it has made things better.

And that's the strange paradox about simplicity: sometimes the hard way is actually the simple way, and the simple way (i.e. "easy") is actually the hard way.

And so the mantra of "silence, simplicity and solitude" will be mine, not just throughout 2007, but most likely until the end of my days.

<>< TM

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