Thursday, August 30, 2012

Barbara Hurd: from "Refugium," Pt. 2

"Those who are fond of retreats--writers, ecstatics, parents with young children--often comment on the silence such time away allows.  Silence becomes something present, almost palpable.  The task shifts from keeping the world at a safe decibel distance to letting more of the world in.  Thomas Aquinas said that beauty arrests motion.  He meant, I think, that in the presence of something gorgeous or sublime, we stop our nervous natterings, our foot twitchings and restless tongues.  Whatever that fretful hunger is, it seems momentarily filled in the presence of beauty.  To Aquinas's wisdom I'd add that silence arrests flight, that in its refuge' the need to flee the chaos of noise diminishes.  We let the world creep closer, we drop to our knees, as if to let the heart, like a small animal, get its legs on the ground."

-- Barbara Hurd --
from "Refugium"
Summer: A Spiritual Autobiography of the Season

Silence is rapidly becoming eligible of being listed as an endangered species today.  Everything seems to ring or ding or whistle at us.  It's impossible to get away from the siren calls of mobile phones, and I don't even have one.  It's getting harder and harder to walk through a parking lot without having some vehicle warning us to back off, or else.  Restaurants now seem to be designed to magnify noise, forcing patrons to shout at someone sitting across the table, just a few feet away.

But what's truly frightening is that I know people who don't like to leave the city because it's too quiet out there.  Isaac Asimov wrote a novel, Caves of Steel, in which people now lived in huge cities that were covered over.  They never saw the sky,  All lighting was artificial.  As a consequence the population was agoraphobic, afraid to enter a large open space.  Are we becoming afraid of silence today?  Are we becoming afraid of being alone with only our own thoughts and nothing to distract us? 

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