12.04.2011

Sacred Time and the Quotidian Roar

A blogalectic with Masha and Mr. Pond.

From Masha:
These dark morning times of silence give the hours that follow a sacred taste.  Surrounding myself with true silence in the early hours, I am better able to carry with me an interior cloister in the busyness of the day - a reminder that all these mundane tasks - repeated again and again - weave around me the sacredness of time given in love.
From Mr. Pond:
For Jenna, and Masha, and myself, these days of preparation and silence attract us to the place where our art is born. We create out of silence; the silence, not the sound and fury of the world around, gives us stories, and “the courage to stand up and die in order to utter a word or a poem.”
There is a time to delight in sound, but noise rules the modern world. It's not all auditory, either.

The roars and strident horns of traffic. The neighborhood garage band. The omnipresence of stereo and surround sound. Television's barrage of story, advertisements, story, advertisements with jingles, news, weather forecast, advertisements. Information on steady flow from the Internet. The vicious mania of political debate, where according to one bumper sticker, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." The Mack truck of noise and shocking imagery and sexual brazenness that hit me last time I went to listen to Top 40 radio. Protests and counter-protests, and people who swerve or shout or throw things from car windows at protesters. Cursing. Vitriol. War. Newscasts that are a list of horrors. Online witch hunts, self-righteous and cruel, destroying the reputations of decent people who happened to say something that wasn't politically correct.

I don't listen to music much, just because it's so hard to find quiet in this world. But I look forward every week to King FM's Sunday night broadcast of Compline (night prayer) from St. Mark's Anglican Cathedral in Seattle. The prayers are sung, a mix of hymn and chant. The way chant is designed, at the end of each line the music reverberates off the great stone walls and then pauses for breath—an instant of silence.

No other music soothes me better than Gregorian chant. Everything about it proves that despite the thunder of our daily lives, somewhere there is silence and stillness and rest.

It's not enough for me to know that these things exist somewhere. It never has been. I have to find them, to befriend them, to know and live in them as much as I can.

Silence requires lifting a hand to stop the motion and speaking a simple word: no. No, I cannot have a television and still read a book a week. No, I cannot participate actively in Twitter and still put full artistry into my novels. No, I don't need to know why the two are mutually exclusive—I just need to know that for me, for now, they are. No, I will not attend the outrage party, nor will I join in its great mockery of charity; outrage grows from a culture that despises silence and reverence.

These are roads I have taken to silence. Your journey may cover different terrain. Be that as it may, the goal is well worth seeking.

From silence focused upward come stability, goodwill, and peace. Likewise, the quiet, solid conviction that allows for creation, for beauty and art. These things flourish with the step back, the bowed head, the echo of truth, the pause for breath.

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