Monthly Archives: August 2014

The World of Silence

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by  Fr. Denis Lemieux

Where silence is, man is observed by silence. Silence looks at man more than man looks at silence. Man does not put silence to the test; silence puts man to the test.

Silence is the only phenomenon today that is “useless”. It does not fit into the world of profit and utility; it simply is. It seems to have no other purpose; it cannot be ex­ploited… It gives things something of its own holy uselessness, for that is what silence itself is: holy uselessness.
The basic phenomena take us, as it were, back to the beginning of things; we have left behind us what Goethe called “the merely derived phenomena” with which we normally live. It is like a death, for we are left on our own, faced with a new beginning—and so we are afraid.

Still like some old, forgotten animal from the beginning of time, silence towers above all the puny world of noise; but as a living animal, not an extinct species, it lies in wait, and we can still see its broad back sinking ever deeper among the briers and bushes of the world of noise. It is as though this prehistoric creature were gradually sinking into the depths of its own silence. And yet sometimes all the noise of the world today seems like the mere buzzing of insects on the broad back of silence.
Max Picard, The World of Silence

Reflection – This is an obscure book by an obscure author that a couple of us at MH have discovered recently, and that I am enjoying very much. The author writes with poetic, almost mystical conviction on what I think is an important subject, perhaps one of the most important subjects there is, in fact.

Our world today flees from silence. There was a study at the University of Virginia recently that was much reported in the media, where a large percentage of people, when asked to simply sit in silence without any distractions for a mere fifteen minutes, preferred to administer mild electric shocks to themselves rather than do that.

‘Silence puts man to the test’. And so we flee from it. We surround ourselves with distractions—electronic devices on which we can play games, listen to music, watch movies, chatter away or follow the twittering chatter of others. It is not that all these devices are evil and must be rejected (it would be rather hypocritical for me to suggest that), but rather they must be put away regularly, turned off frequently, silenced daily.

It is a very deep matter, this necessity of silence for the human person. It is this whole business of uselessness, of a non-utilitarian mode of being. Our world today, insofar as it cluttered by noise and chatter and ceaseless activity, is a world of utilitarian values. What use is it? That is the only question. If something is not delivering some value to us–diverting us, feeding us, informing us—then it is useless and to be thrown aside.

But as with things, so it is with people, right? We cannot adopt a utilitarian attitude towards life without extending that towards the people in our life too. And of course then we have the phenomenon of people being thrown away, or at best (and what a sad and pathetic best it is) judged and valued by how ‘useful’ they are. An insecure and terrible way of being.

And so we have the need for this holy uselessness of silence. Picard is right—silence is the one thing that cannot be exploited economically. It is available to us, free, at the simple price of turning off all the sources of noise in our life. And it is a very deep matter—Picard is a very deep writer indeed on this subject.

Silence as ‘death’, as returning us to the immediate experience of reality, underived, uninterpreted, raw and naked, like Adam at his creation, silence as this vast towering reality that surrounds us and threatens to engulf us, silence as a constant presence encompassing the world of noise—these are serious things to consider. We flee from silence; really, in this we are fleeing from reality, from ourselves and from God. Ought we?

NOTE: Fr Denis is a friend’s spiritual director, a priest of Madonna House, which is her spiritual home and community located in Ontario, Canada. He has a blog TEN THOUSAND PLACES which you can easily access (http://frdenis.blogspot.com) but he no longer invites comments as he is a very very busy priest and cannot attend to all
he is also an author of several books

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My Imagination

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By Patsy Mills

I work as a Security Guard at a Halifax campus and one of my duties is to patrol around the outer perimeter of the campus. It only takes about ten minutes or so to do and very rarely is there very much to report about. So, to make my patrol kind of interesting, I use my imagination to give myself a chuckle once in a while.

There are three big garbage bins from the company Re-Group. The Re stands for Recycle, Reduce and Reuse. Part of my patrol is to walk around them to make sure nothing out of the ordinary is around them. Never was told exactly what was meant by “out of the ordinary”. As long as there are no small dead animals or being over run by rats or ants, then, I don’t mind covering the territory as required. It is very boring and the garbage cans have become the basis of my imagination.

The garbage bins are square with two flapping lids on the top. Sometimes the lids are open and sometimes they are closed. The words Re Group are written on the front of the bin.

My imagination portrays the bins in an animated form, and I am human, not animated. Similar to the pairing of cartoon and human done on the movie of Roger Rabbit or also, compare it to the movie “The Night at the Museum” with Ben Stiller and all the statues in the museum come to life after the museum closes.

I am walking along on my patrol, minding my business and as I get closer to the area where the bins are, I can hear voices, as if they are in a heated discussion. I turn the corner to walk closer to the where the garbage bins are and they catch a glimpse of me approaching and then I hear, “Shhhh!!!! Sh!!!! Stop talking you two!!! She will hear us!!! Shut your Lid. Come on guys , we need to “ReGroup!!!!” Shh!!!

As I get closer, I walk around the bins, thinking to myself, “I am SURE I heard some voices!!!” Even if I did hear voices, uh, from garbage cans, ha ha, I think All I would hear would be “trash talk”.
They are just ‘Has-Bins’. I am a lover of using Puns or play on words even when thinking to myself. As sure as I was that i heard voices, I think I was trying to coax a response out of these bins, even though that sounds crazy as the birds.

As I finish my patrol, I walk away. It was either a breeze that flapped the lid on the bin, or was my imagination making me think I heard one of them give me a raspberry as I am walking away.

I turn around and give them a raspberry and continue on my patrol.

NOTE: THIS IS A FLASH FICTION STORY FROM A FRIEND IN HALIFAX SEND IN YOUR COMMENTS!