Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"Why should the wind through the pines, the sand storms, and the squall upon the sea, all count as silence, and not the pounding of the factory machines, the rumbling of the trains at the station, and the clamor of the engines at the intersection?" — Madeleine Delbrêl

I was a guest lecturer in a class today, talking about contemplative practices and creativity. We were talking about ways to set aside space — sacred and otherwise — for contemplation. I noted they have a meditation space in one of the enormous bay windows (the octagonal bays are the size of a small classroom) that juts out of the library. The library stacks open onto an internal courtyard, with shops and a food court on the bottom floor. The whole building hums with noise, no library hush here!

I asked students about whether any of them used the space or had seen it. Several had and so we talked about the ways in which the space was set apart by its users — though it lacked a door: a screen, the taking off of shoes, the leaving of backpacks and coats at the edge. When I mentioned that it wasn't very silent, one of the students corrected me,"It's very quiet. I usually study by that room because of that." I agreed, that relative to the rest of the library, it is quiet. But on my scale not so much. Eastern Point in the dead of night comes to mind.

But I've been reading a bit of Madeleine Delbrêl's take on silence and solitude where she poses just this question. Why do I count the wind in the trees as silence, but the murmur of voices or the grunt of a printer as it chugs out another paper as noise?

I don't have much of an answer at this point — except to say that the trains which howl in the night at Wernersville do say "silence" to me....

"Silence does not mean running away, but rather recollecting ourselves in the open space of God." — Madeleine Delbrêl

Photo is of the chapel at Eastern Point, taken at 3:27 am. The only light is from the Presence Lamp, the exposure was a long one, I set a tripod on a stone wall outside. I prayed I would not get locked out by some other night time wanderer - despite the sticky note I'd left on the door saying I was outside!

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