Joined: 16 Nov 2006
|Posted: Tue Aug 06, 2019 6:27 pm Post subject: Silence
|Theme: Silence by Rev Phil Silk
We meet today to celebrate life and to explore the idea and experience of silence. Perhaps the need for silence is greater now than ever before as we are bombarded by noise nearly everywhere and increasingly seem to fear being alone with our selves.
Let us enter into this service with our whole selves as we share words, silence and music. May our time together help us all live rich and rewarding lives, alone and with others.
As we light our chalice today, let the light remind us of the spark of inspiration we seek to find and to bring with us in the days ahead.
HYMN 15 (Hymns for Living) For All That Is Our Life
SPOKEN AND SILENT MEDITATION
Words by Robert Weston
Some of us with muscles and nerves singing in the full flush of youth,
Some with quiet confidence, and some perhaps weary,
Worn with the failures, the years, and the passing of strength,
And still others, the men and women determined,
Filled with the zeal of battle for justice yet to be
And for truth still denied or undiscovered,
Each and all of us, whatever we be,
Must come to the time when we need to be still.
There comes a time when we must know the need
To go apart and meditate, to seek the meanings of our lives,
To reconsider the purposes we have accepted
And to establish peace within ourselves.
The world presses on us too insistently;
The appetites too imperiously demand of us
And we forget to be real persons in ourselves.
May this moment be one of redemption,
Of renewal of faith in life and the living of it;
May the disciplines of humility and courage
Be strengthened from this time.
May it bring a rediscovery of self
And a lifting of the heart
With a sense of newness from that discovery,
New courage, fresh vigour, and a deeper thoughtfulness
For the living of life from this day…
(R. Weston, "Prelude")
1. "I Like Quiet" by Helen Oldfield, 11-year old
I like quiet.
The rustle of paper, the creak of a door,
The tick of my clock, and my tread on the floor,
A snore from my father, the swish of a mat,
The rattle of bottles, the squeak of a rat,
The talking boys, the pit-a-pat of rain,
The whistle of a train,
The tiring lap of the cat as he drank,
The splish splash of water on an undisturbed bank.
The rush hour has gone, the quietness begins,
Noise is conquered, quietness wins.
2. "Quietness" by Vincent Silliman
There is quiet that is all emptiness;
And there is quiet that is life.
There is quiet that is rich with appreciations, with gratitude and with love.
There is quiet that is creative;
There is quiet that is full of generous purpose and serene determination.
There is quiet that is the very atmosphere of onward things --of life and growth that shall be in the days and years to come.
There is quiet within the mind, the heart, the spirit -- when outside there is no quiet at all.
There is quiet wherein there is order, when without there are contention and disorder.
There is quiet that is wisdom, though the noises of misunderstanding and dissension are loud.
1. "Silence in Unitarian Universalist Usage" adapted from F L James
Many Unitarians - and Universalists , agree with Emerson, "I Like the silence before the service begins". [ Others prefer to socialise.]
We like it apart from any sense of awe before a mystic Presence or veneration for a holy Place, legitimate as such feelings may be. Rather, we like the silence for itself, because of what we have learned it can do for us.
We cherish that brief interval of quiet on entering the church in which to release the tensions of body and mind, to drop the resistances of our spirits against the thousand irritations of our lives, to free our thoughts, to relax our fears and anxieties. In doing so we are free to contemplate large perspectives from which to view our personal selves in true proportion with the whole.
We value these few moments in which to gain a sense of harmony with our fellow worshippers not dependent on speech or action but felt all the more keenly by our presence together, united in a bond of silence in a common quest for that which is of worth.
We find in that opening period, free from external intrusion, the means of making ourselves more wholly receptive to every true value, and every fresh insight awaiting us.
2."Invitation to Serenity" by Vivian T. Pomeroy
When we are tired with the work we have to do or feel unequal to it;
When we dully wonder about its being worthwhile;
When our pleasures, so easily taken, communicate no happiness to the heart;
When we are fretting about our own faults or the faults of other people;
When one day repeats another and we pine for some change we know not what:
Then may the voices of our own heart's courage and of agelong wisdom call us to their hospitality.
When there is sound and fury all around, signifying little or nothing;
When the past derides us with remembered failures and we think we are never to be quit of them;
When the future seems more a menace than a hope;
When we feel that at our worst it will not matter much, and at our best it will not really count;
When we are prey to fears because we cannot guard against a chance and a slight thing happening would lay us low:
Then may we receive, each for himself, the comforting assurance: "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."
SPOKEN AND SILENT MEDITATION
Let us seek quiet, now and then - an inward quiet, the quiet that renews and confronts with confidence the clamours of our fear;
Quiet whereto one may retire, but not to evade responsibility or whatever of strife is necessary - the quiet that brings increase of strength;
Not the quiet of inaction;
Not that the sights and sounds, the enthusiasms and the disappointments of our days are unimportant;
Rather a quiet aspect to living that is full and intense and real, that requires and receives our best.
Let us seek quiet --blessed quiet that is life and that opens out to more life.
And now as we pause for another time of shared silence, having looked inward, let us look outward, perhaps to the continuing significance of problems in Syria, The Congo, The Hormuz Straight, The Mexican-US border,the earthquakes, floods, pagues and famines all over the world. But also to appreciate the many efforts being made to overcome poverty, disease, environmental and personal problems…
We grieve; we applaud; we hope and pray. And we commit ourselves to playing our small yet important part in expanding the abundant life for all. Amen.
HYMN 219(HFL) The People's Peace”
Time for Silence
The title of my sermon today is "Time for Silence", meaning it is about time we made and used times for silence.
Not long ago a friend of ours in her nineties fell again and broke some more bones. She is recovering from those injuries, again, and is already back in her residential home. However, there was another, shocking result of this fall: she is now stone deaf! So far as we know now, no hearing aid, however clever, nor any up-to-date operation can help her. She has told her family "I now live in a world of silence." As you can imagine, she does not like it at all. Nor do they. Some people are born deaf and do not know exactly what they are missing. Moreover, they learn to develop their other senses better than those who can hear, such as the lady who lip-reads for the police, as told in "Readers' Digest". Others, like Helen Keller, acquire deafness after having been able to hear, at least for awhile. The younger you are, perhaps the easier it is to adjust. But over 90? However strong-willed and flexible you are, and I assure you she has been both, that must be a very difficult situation to cope with. Fortunately she can still see and speak, so communication is possible, but she has far more silence than she wants or needs. My service today is focused on desirable silence. Even lonely, hearing people can get too much silence. Perhaps a positive attitude to silence can help even the deaf and the lonely, but I am sure it can help the rest of us!
Let me now share with you a short poem called "Silence" written by Carl Sandburg when he was 83:
“Time says hush.
By the gong of time you live.
Listen and you hear time saying you were silent long before you came to life
And you will again be silent long after you leave it.
Why not be a little silent now?
Hush yourself, noisy little man."
While it is true that a baby who is kept in isolation and is therefore under-stimulated will be damaged and may even die, it is also true that children, youths and adults can be overexposed to sights and sounds. Indeed, in our culture this is becoming more and more likely. For example, we now realise that loud music can ruin our hearing. Furthermore, some psychiatrists claim that the major reason people in our cities do not respond to cries for help is , at least in part, due to overstimulation: there are just too many demands for attention and response, so we become very selective, consciously and unconsciously as well.
One of the essentials for securing and maintaining good health, bodily, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, is silence: time for rest and for meditation. Religious leaders throughout the world and history have proclaimed the value of silence as a condition for gaining insight, enlightenment or revelation and as a source of solace in itself. Now surgeons occasionally prescribe walking in the woods -without headphones- for tranquility and vigour. Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead even defined religion as "what an individual does with his own solitude."
However, you define religion, you can see we do need time for silence. All of us, if some more than others. But it is becoming more and more difficult to obtain. We even have a name for the problem: noise pollution.
People have long recognised water pollution. Sick water has been with us a long time, and we know that the industrial revolution resulted in great water wastes. More recently we became aware of air pollution, as well. Dirty industrial smoke used to blacken people's laundry . They used to say in steeltown Pittsburgh that the laundry came in dirtier than when it went out to dry! In the Potteries, as well. Not now, of course, thankfully. But it was atomic fallout which made us especially concerned for what we living organisms absorb into our systems as we breathe. And now we realise that exhaust fumes cause pollution, too. Air and water pollution we are working on. Noise pollution we are slow to deal with. (As for the latest form of pollution to be noted, smell pollution, we have barely begun to notice it, let alone combat it.) may seem an odd expression, 'noise pollution', but it points to a very real problem. Just think for a minute of some of the noises we live with constantly: cars, airplanes, radios,tvs,other media, especially online, musak, mobile phones(one went off in a church service I was conducting recently), washers, dryers, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, clippers, barking dogs, noisy neighbours - and on and on we could go, especially noticed perhaps during times of silent meditation in church. Our Newcastle church lost our Buddhist guest because of the noisy road outside. Sir Alan Patrick Henry told The House of Commons in 1938:"Great science nobly laboured to increase the people's joys,/But every new invention seemed to add another noise."
There are noises everywhere! Which reminds me of a story. There was once an experiment in which a musician with excellent hearing ability was enclosed in a sound-proof room to see if he could hear anything; they were checking the sound-proofing in the room. When he came out he said he had heard two faint noises: one rhythmic, one shrill. After careful investigation it was discovered that what he heard were noises his own body was producing: the beat of his heart and the signals in his nervous system. He did have good hearing! But prisoners in solitary confinement can go mad in such silence.
We cannot expect to have absolute silence so long as we shall live: we bring noise with us. What we need is to get away from the overabundance of disturbing background noises so we can really hear the sound of a leaf falling or the thoughts within (and also, each other). We need quietness to rest our nerves and to hear what is really important to us.
A British author tells of a wealthy man who, as he was dying, called his profligate son and told him that he would inherit all the family wealth on one condition: that he spend one hour a day alone. The son said "yes" and became a changed man. Fiction or fact, the point comes through: if we want to make the most of our inheritance, we need time for silence. We need to break the sound barrier in our lives.
Part of the problem of securing more silence is the amount of noise coming to our ears from outside. We need more and better silencers on us and on our products.
But even if we lower the noise level around us, we still may have trouble achieving "the quietude which makes the spirit grow". For the noise level inside us is also high.
We are busy, busy people, involved, preoccupied and accustomed to screening out noises. How often have you had to admit you just weren't listening when you missed what was being said to you? When we are busy, busy inside, we do not really encounter other people, or the world at large, or even ourselves. Also, we often waste what silence we do have.
Think back to our times of shared silence this morning. How many of us, do you suppose, responded to the general silence around us by relaxing and meditating? Many of us probably found ourselves darting here and there from errand to observation to thought to project and so on. Not really wasted, but best use of the opportunities? Yet, the second time was a little more peaceful, wouldn't you say? As with other arts, the art of creatively using silence requires practice and discipline, as the Quakers, at least, know.
We have considered two barriers to quiet times: the tremendous amount of noise surrounding us and the high activity level within. In addition to these two general barriers, there is a third obstacle which affects many people: we sometimes resist or avoid silence. Some of us just feel at a loss as to what to do with silence; perhaps this was your reaction to our silent times today. I used to expect some kind of miracle to happen at such times, and was uncomfortable when I only confronted my own wandering thoughts. Now I sometimes relax, sometimes feel a part of the group and setting I am in, or just think a bit, especially in directed meditation Occasionally all three at once. What is your experience? Tell me about it later...
There are other times, though, when we actively dislike silence because we do not want to face ourselves, or the imponderables of life, or the people around us. We fill the void with something, anything, rather than stand the tension of a lapse in conversation or another evening alone.
Another time we should talk of loneliness, one of modern life's worst personal and social problems. But let us not forget that one reason we have so little time for silence is that we often do not really want it.
Assume for the moment, however, that we have decided we do value silence, we do want more of it. What are some of the ways we can deliberately arrange for relatively quiet times? Here are a few ideas. I am sure you have others as well, which I hope you will share with me and each other later.
1. Get away from noisy areas
A. A walk in the country
Wordsworth, from "Tintern Abbey":
I have learned
o look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy/Of elevated thoughts."
(irony-too popular now…)
B.church or other sanctuary
2. Establish quiet where you are
A. Home - rituals, rules, spaces,. times…
B. Work - reduce noise, take a break…
C. School - encourage appreciation of silence, provide opportunities for it
E Respond with silence:Donald Johnston:
"Remember to respond
with silence now and then.
Wait for something
to come out that only silence
can make room for.
Our talk/can make it show that we don't care.
Listening silence shows more care
than any rush of words."
Everyone of us needs quiet times and every one of us can deliberately seek out or establish silence.
But to make the best use of silence when we have it, we need to learn the art of creatively using silence - or of letting silence use us, as the case may be. Again, here are a few suggestions. Share your later.
1. Learn to relax- exercises for breathing or muscles; attitudes
Thomas Merton: "There are times, then, when in order to keep ourselves in existence at all we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing. And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform; and it often is quite beyond his power."
2. Study - seek truth, inspiration, peace
3. Meditate or prayA. Explore world and self
Ray Baughan: "To many of us the world has become so familiar/We no longer experience it."
B. Empty the mind
C. Communion with self, others, nature, God
Art requires practice and discipline; the more we do it, the more we get out of it. So it is with the art of creatively using silence.
All of us here are seeking ways to improve the quality of life for ourselves and for others. Let us seek balanced lives: there is a time for speaking and a time for silence; a time for action and a time for inaction, a time for joy and a time for peace. In seeking the abundant life, we must include time for silence, that quietness which can provide refreshment, inspiration, awareness, belonging, wholeness and dedication.
READING "Let There Be Silence" R. Weston
Let there be silence.
Let there be reverence, in your heart;
Let all the sounds of earth flood over you
And be heard because
You have known how to keep silence in yourself
In order that you may receive that which only silence can make possible.
Drop down your burdens on the earth
And feel the strength of earth
Well up through you, flow upward from the ground
Through bone and sinew, into strength…
Rest your heart in silence
And a thousand songs you never heard before
Will pour into your ears.
Throw open the doors of your heart to all
And as its invitation answer finds
Your heart will be full
And they who come be filled as well.
Let there be silence;
Let there be reverence;
Let there be welcome,
And there will be wonder, in your heart.
HYMN 188 (HFL) “Let Love Continue Long”
There is a time to speak out and a time to keep silence. A time to walk in the woods and a time to work. A time for tears and a time for laughter. A time to meditate and a time to serve. Let us live in the fullness of time. Amen