Thursday, December 06, 2007

575. Silence, sleep and jazz*

I had a hard time emptying my mind during the Contemplative Shabbat service last Friday, so thought about silence instead.

I doubt that anyone is afraid of music, but many recoil from silence and meditation. Most couch it in different terms: I have no time to sit around; I don't like someone telling me what to think when I'm supposed to be quiet; I relax just fine, thank you, when I ski/read/play the tuba, etc.; it's all a bunch of New Age nonsense. There is some truth to all these reasons, but I think they're often excuses to avoid confronting the truth behind the noise of our lives.

Silence is the glue that holds together our ideas, the space between all we do. Silence, like the white of the page, is louder than everything around it. In silence is the expectation and yearning that fuels each act--the origin, in many ways, of the drama of our lives. And its evenness and lack of peaks and valleys also creates a rational side to our irrational desires, allowing us to glimpse the alternative.

Silence is not rest; we sit quietly, yet our minds still move at a thousand miles a minute. Only sleep is rest, when we can't fully remember what's happening behind the curtain. Silence is more like jazz, a transcendent state of creativity that requires structure. It has rules, even though we make it up as we go along. Like jazz, each experience of meditation is different from the one before: sometimes we observe our passing thoughts as if from far away, but during others we practically beat them down so they won't strangle us. After we leave the quiet room, in all cases, we have seen and grown something not present before we entered.

I am also saddened by silence, because it reminds me that I'm getting older. Once upon a time I could concentrate amidst of all kinds of noise. I had less of my own inner chaos to compete with the outer; now I hear cacophony whenever the two meet. Maybe more silence will lead me to a simpler life, which will allow me to need less silence.


*I got the idea for this post during services, but couldn't write it down because it was Shabbat and I was in a house of worship. So I kept repeating these three words to myself in order to remember.

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