A car alarm woke me this morning. Then the steady drone of commuter cars. Sirens, machinery, radio, television… We live in a world of noise that would startle and deafen a pre-Industrial Revolution person who happened upon our 21st century life. Noise affects us so much that we need an antidote: silence.

Active Silence. Recall examination days when you sat in a hall in silence? Or being told to be quiet so you could hear a pin drop? Or being totally absorbed in reading a book?  These are examples of active silence. The mind is still noisy, even in the silence.

Benevolent Silence. Perhaps this is best experienced in the countryside at dawn or dusk, looking at mighty mountains, tranquil hills or a wild flower. Or you may like the benevolent silence of standing outside at night looking up at the stars. This is good-for-the-soul silence.

Companionable Silence. The Old Testament prophet Elijah, agitated and anxious, didn’t hear God in the tumult of a terrifying gale, nor in a ground-cracking earthquake, nor in the menacing crackle of flames in a forest fire. No. It was in silence that he heard God’s soft whisper. It’s when our whole being, body, mind and soul, is still that we can just be… and know the companionable silence of God’s presence.

Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease; Take from our souls the strain and stress and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace.             John Greenleaf Whittier 1807-1892


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