In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Seeking Solitude and Silence

I really like this one. It seems lonely, but its how it was supposed to be.:
Photo from gentleman essentials
Blaise Pascal noted that "all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own room", he found that the reason for this inability is "the natural poverty of our feeble and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can comfort us when we think of it closely". Pascal said that people turn to diversion to distract us from ourselves.  He explained that "Hence it comes to people so much love noise and stir; hence it comes that the prison is so horrible a punishment; hence it comes that the pleasure of solitude is a thing incomprehensible".

This seems true of the world I see around me. In the culture around me I see a constant addiction to cell  phones and listening devices.  When I've traveled and shared rooms with people from work, I've found that it is common practice to never allow there to be any quiet; that people turn on the TV when they enter a room even though they're not watching it.  People tell me that they do this all the time at home.  This drives me crazy.  Aside from work or to obtain information, I don't use my cell phone much.  I adore long walks at the beach, or any beautiful outdoor place, without any kind of listening device.  I want to just drink in and enjoy the silence.

Pascal also observed that people are driven to diversion and develop the confused idea that rest is attained through excitement. He wrote that people "always to fancy that the satisfaction which they do not have will come to them if, by surmounting whatever difficulties confront them they can thereby open the door to rest".  I can see that in the frenzied vacation pursuits of so many.  Not that exciting vacations in and of themselves are wrong; in fact, that might be very right for some one.  It's just that I don't think these excitement laden activities will produce the peace, connection to God, and rest for the soul. As long as exciting vacations are pursued for what they are, they can be great.

Pascal believed that people have "another secret instinct, a remnant of greatness of our original nature, which teaches that happiness in reality consists only in rest, and not being stirred up". When I think about these words of Pascal I'm reminded of these Bible elements:
  • In Genesis we're told that man was created in God's image
  • In the Garden of Eden there was not sin and man had perfect communication with God
  • In the old testament I read about the sabbath and a rest.  In the Exodus story God provided manna for His people and they only collected enough for their daily needs.  But on the 6th day they collected enough for that day plus the sabbath rest day.
  • In the new testament Jesus made His famous statement in Matthew 11:28 - 29 about how He'll give us rest.

I  recognize that, although I'm not as addicted to the noise agents of my culture, I have my own barrier.  It's something I developed during my lonely childhood in my crazy family.  I write scripts in my head.  Sometimes it's about what could or might happen in my own life, but frequently it's a story about someone else in a life with such and such going on.  It's like I read a fiction book of my own making in my head while I'm walking, cooking, or engaging in some other life activity which doesn't require concentration. This thing that I do isn't bad in and of itself, but sometimes I use it as a barrier from the pain or questions in my head that I don't know what to do with.  Sometimes I use it as an escape.

 I think that Pascal, and all the other mystic and contemplative writers, were onto something.

So, it is with this in mind that I've determined to embark upon a quest to understand and implement what many refer to as spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence.

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