Monday, October 9, 2006

Role of silence

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Silence can be an important factor which is often missing from busy modern lives. In Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh describes all the demands of modern life. In particular, the following words probably have particular resonance for lawyers, “Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions. Instead of stilling the center, the axis of the wheel, we add more centrifugal activities to our lives — which tend to throw us off balance.”

She describes the solution as “neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it” and that the balance was “a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return”. As part of that balance, the solitude was to be found for her by the ocean. As part of the exercise of silence, the words of Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet assist, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions…Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them.” The point he went on was to live the questions until you “gradually without noticing it, live your way some distant day into the answer.”
In Finding Sanctuary, Abbot Christopher Jamison explains the Rule of St Benedict and the need for silence in one’s life. The Rule says in particular that “There are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence.” However, he also describes the challenge of finding what he calls “positive silence” in the city, although he says perhaps the biggest challenge is to help people find positive silence inside themselves. However, he goes on that the laying of a carpet of silence is in fact only an underlay as the noises in the head remain. What is needed beyond this, he says, is what he calls “the carpet of contemplation”. This, he suggests, can be done through prayer, meditation and good reading.

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