Posts Tagged ‘Keeping Quiet’

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Sunlight through a kitchen window…

August 23, 2010

The simple, yet exquisite beauty of natural light falling through a kitchen window at sunset

  

 Thoughts. Observations. Reflections on summer 2010. 

It’s been a lonely walk the last month or two. Feeling aware that something was missing I have turned again to my much neglected blog and decided that I needed to return my mind, hands and body to the tap-tap-tap of the laptop key-board. 

Life has been good, but hard in a subtly abrasive way, like the feeling of stumbling into a concrete wall, whatever our needs or feelings – the concrete does not shift. It stays resolutely hard and it is our bodies, feelings and souls that must compress and change shape to adjust to the solidity of the obstacle we encounter. A concrete wall – plain, grey, cold, hard or in this case the circumstances of life, even in a ‘promised’ land remain unforgiving and unmoved. 

As a man who sees himself as taking part in a spiritual journey, one might think that I have extra resources from which to find comfort in such hard and dull circumstances…and you’d be right. I do have access to spiritual traditions, disciplines and wonders that are usually able to shine light on life during a period of struggle or difficulty. Yet, once again this summer when religious resources have been widely available, I find myself saturated by their sweetness. Somehow they taste too sweet. They do not satisfy. Christian conferences, church attendance and activities, Christian books they seem to contribute to the sense of alienation, not alleviate it. 

So, what does one do in such circumstances? 

In my case I think I take care and time to appreciate the ‘details’ of life. The subtle, easily ignored, particles of beauty, splendour that permeate even the most ‘ordinary’ circumstances. There is beauty everywhere, if you have eyes to see. Just like the Kingdom the ancient Jewish man Jesus of Nazareth spoke about – it is within us or near us, if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear. 

I took the picture above because the  translucent and shadowy scene in my humble rented accommodation struck me as special in a unique way. I sensed that it may not last or that I may never see such a scene of earthly beauty quite like it gain. I chose to pay attention to the details of my physical life in those moments, and paradoxically what was revealed was a kind of  spiritual epiphany. 

In my experience it is rare to hear a Christian seminar on discovering the beauty of God through the precise falling of particles of light through a kitchen window, across a sink full of cups and plates and cutlery ready to be washed. Rather, we rush ahead see if we can harness the spiritual powers of the Bible or in the name of the God of the Bible to accelerate the growth of ‘our’ church. In the back of our minds are targets and financial goals and plans, we lose sight of the graces of each day – light, shadow, thin curtains flowing in the breezes. 

I wonder if true spirituality will take place on earth if we set down our plans and just praise the God of Creation for the wonder of the Universe and thank the God of History for the chance to be alive…and free…and fed…and watered…with clothes and shelter, that we might be still for a moment and notice, watch the changes in light across a first floor flats rooms. Maybe in these transient whispers of the material world are the trails of glory from the other heavenly world.

Summer breeze moves the voile curtains and evening sun lights up the kitchen window

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Keeping Quiet

April 23, 2010
  
Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda
   
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
 
This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

 
It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

If we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

 
From Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon
Translated by Stephen Mitchell 

  

  
I was just riding again in the woods this afternoon and these words of the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda came to mind, about stillness and quiet…
    
‘If we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.’

 

As I began my ride, I tried to ride quietly softly through the woods. There was such calm and peace in the woods. My bike gently rolled along the mulchy, sandy paths. The tires make a reassuring soft hum as they traverse the gravel. My ears register the strange quiet in the woods. It is of course, broken from time to time by the distant sound of cars passing on a ring road outside the park, or the frightened rustling of a startled squirrel, or the sweet, chirps and whistles of birds singing above. But above all I am struck by the silence. It is so quiet that I feel that I can actually hear the wood speaking to me. Speaking not through words, but through silence, quiet, peace, the breathing of the forest as I gently rumble through it, a visitor, who comes from outside the wood. Yet, a human who feels at home in the woods fresh air, forest aromas, fragmented light and peaceful green foliage.
 
I feel that the woods welcome me. They welcome me into their world of natural growth, not forced, not planned or deliberate, simply the response of living things to an environment of water, warmth, wind, soil and light. Here in the woods things grow, live and die, They don’t try to influence you to be something else, something better or more worthy, or more correct than you are…they are simply quiet – the fresh air and clean fragrances, the silence simply welcomes you. The woods invite you to take part in the rest from plans or agendas, projects and sales, shopping and winning, competing to beat our neighbour, colleague or friend. There is no competition, just the ebb and flow of death and life. We all will die, the question is will we actually live.
 
I am embraced by the wood – first and foremost, it’s simple, pure silence. I die for a moment to myself. For a few seconds I return the embrace and breath in and out the quiet and fresh air. I am nobody. I am nobody special. Simply, a very lucky man…who gets to ride his bike in the woods on a sunny afternoon. Yet, it is a welcome relief. Here in the woods there is nobody to impress or convince of my worthiness. I need be absolutely no one. I am no one important and yet…the silence of the wood seems to welcome me. She welcomes me …as me…as David…as the wounded young man with a history, that I am. A man with a history…yet, all that which the world and society weighs and measures…seems to mean nothing in the forest. Here is just me and the woods. Nothing else matters…just be quiet, David.
 
Just be quiet … still … listen … to the silence.