tag : bright yellow-green apples: comfort in sound

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

comfort in sound

figure 45.2. the bit between the spaces

While trying to write a grandiose entry, I was drawn into musing after reading this little poemsy discussion between Ruth Ann and Louisa. So it's on the back burner for a little while I have a go at knocking consensus (that goes for all you lovely Quakers out there too, m'ducks!) I'll be the first to acknowledge that I've found a lot in contemplation, silence, and absence. Though I stop short of the current wider vogue for chill out and soft jazz ambience in public spaces (worship and otherwise), which easily descends into blandness. But silence is certainly the zeitgeist at the moment.

In fact it's the sheer pervasiveness of this quiet that's got me thinking. I was trying to compose my thoughts as I was immersing myself in music, courtesy of a nice old second-hand walkman - that skips - which was passed on to me by Sarah. I've been reassessing what the opposite of silence means to me, the place of sound and presence in life and spirituality. This quote from The Complex Christ puts it well:

"Our destiny is not a quiet place with just God and us…As Meister Eckhart advises, "spirituality is not to be learned in flight from the world; rather we must learn to maintain an inner solitude regardless of where we are or who we are with. We must learn to penetrate things, and find God there.""

So often the implicit message around-and-about seems to be that we must descend into the quietness of our selves, our gentle rooms with candles, our silence, if we are to hear God. But I'm beginning to remember what I sometimes lose - that God is there in what we hear, as much as what emptiness we create. The divine is the presence of the voice and tune and beat. The rhythm and pulse of life in our world of clattering stuff. God is to be found there in the world of disorder and elements, we have to continuously learn to find God in our world - a world of quiet space and insistent noise.


Blogger Ruthie said...

Now I align myself with this entirely.

I am occasionally disturbed in conversations and in reading when I come across the idea that silence is an escape from the world.

Heaven help us should we ever commence some kind of ridiculous retreat and shelter ourselves from the realities (both the harsh and the beautiful) of living in the world. That would not be very incarnational.

Notably, the frequently silent Quakers are often highly engaged in the world in numerous ways ;)

My own perspective is that the silence connects me to everything and enables me to dwell within the world rather than run away from it to some imaginary place with some imaginary God to have some imaginary spiritual experience :P (Not that I'm a skeptic or anything).


4:09 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

There’s a rather fine hymn, by Pratt Green (I forget if he was one of us Methydists, no doubt RobB will know)...well as good as any could be described in such terms! We sometimes sing it in Chapel, and it seems to correlate very well with what you say:

When the Church of Jesus
Shuts its outer door,
Lest the roar of traffic
Drown the voice of prayer:
May our prayers, Lord, make us
Ten times more aware
That the world we banish
Is our Christian care.

If our hearts are lifted
Where devotion soars
High above this hungry
Suffering world of ours:
Lest our hymns should drug us
To forget its needs,
Forge our Christian worship
Into Christian deeds.

Lest the gifts we offer,
Money, talents, time,
Serve to salve our conscience
To our secret shame:
Lord, reprove, inspire us
By the way you give;
Teach us, dying Saviour,
How true Christians live.

Though, this is written for those who find thier inspiration most of all in Church as a catalyst for what they do beyond its door. And some of us, often find the mirror image of this ;)

To take it further - at the moment I’m tending to find God out there in the noises of the street more than the quiet of the contemplative space. When I’m turning it, it can be a bit like an existential navel-gazing exercise – which is partly why I’m nearly always drawing at some point in a service or worshipful gathering!

4:44 PM  
Blogger Ruthie said...

Me too! I find much more inspiration from a good dose of worldly activity and I prioritse friends, social activities and justice projects over any sort of prayer or 'worship meeting' :)

Down the pub, in work, in human interaction, in sharing a meal, in a good piece of music, meeting people - that's where God is for me - much more so than in the silence.

I'm not sure why I feel driven towards spending an hour or more in silence each week. I think it simply helps me to stop and remember so as to appreciate more deeply and fully everything else and also to connect with others committed to living deeply and compassionately.

Sometimes I get irked amongst Quakers, as I sometimes think there is too much emphasis 'worship', all sitting together, mystical/spiritual experiences and too much talk of God. :O

Whenever I hear people talk about God I think I must be an atheist. Whenever I stop talking about God and simply live - I find a presence that appears to be 'all in all'. Not God in any traditional meaning perhaps - but that's where I'm at atm.

When we shut ourselves away to be with God - we'll never find anything of the divine if you ask me.


6:57 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

There is a sense in which creating an empty space is invaluable - if approached rightly. As I indicated, I'm not a fan of chill out-esc spirituality. All too often it is about running away to a private sanctuary. Maybe that's inevitable; given how many people find urban living increasingly stressful, and we should remember that I live in the Derbyshire hills. But still, that space should provide the situation where consideration of life is possible. Rather like dreaming, in fact - though often fantastical, they're always grounded in our lives and experiences.

As I think I tried to say elsewhere, to talk about God is a bit of a paradox. To make the transcendent reality some descript subject is rather like trying to talk about a poem outside of the words that are its nature...

11:39 PM  
Anonymous RobertB said...

F. Pratt Green was indeed a Methodist (but I had to check; I wasn't sure he mightn't have been a Congregationalist).

Some partially contrasting (or at least less ostentatiously activist) thoughts by another Methodist:

"Worship is not what we do to motivate the passion for justice. Worship, which from the beginning to end is prayer, is justice....there is nothing more important for Christians to do than to pray, in particular, for our enemies....That Christians now must try to understand, for example, how prayer may or may not be related to the moral life indicates something has gone profoundly wrong with the practices that are meant to shape the Christian community....When liturgy becomes a motivation for action that does not require the liturgy for the intelligibility of the description of what we have done, then we lose the means as Christians to make our lives our own."

(and a thought we can perhaps more readily agree with:)

"I think it is no accident that the thin character of much of mainline Protestant worship reflects as well as reproduces the superficial lives associated with Protestantism in America. No matter how well meant the efforts are to turn worship into entertainment, the result is the sentimental perversion of worship that fails to provide any resistance to the ugliness of our surrounding culture - an ugliness, perhaps, nowhere more apparent than in the unbridled licentiousness of people unashamed of their greed."

(from Stanley Hauerwas' essay `Suffering Beauty' in "Performing the Faith")

I consider it good Ruthie is unsure why she is driven to spend an hour or more in silence each week. Worship is not a means to an external end (even though it does transform and shape us); it is too basic for that. It is meet and right so to do...

1:06 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

I didn't understand this completely to be honest, but I do find it amusing that you've stolen the title of it from Feeder...

3:10 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

I used that heading for your benefit, knowing you'd be the only one to notice the reference...

3:58 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Oh yes, and thanks, Rob, for your informative response. I’ll digest the quotes and see what they provoke (I like contrast and tension - hense speaking equally well of silence and sound). What you said about worship being basic strikes me as important – it’s primal, basic, nature.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Oh, thank you, duck.

[insert lengthy, waffly, airy-fairy response in kind here]

4:19 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

woooo glad that discmans getting some use. might wanna get wheels to lug it about on!

11:26 PM  
Blogger mary said...

i noticed the feeder title too! (yes, i know it's a bit late)

11:28 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

hehe...better late than never M!

1:11 AM  

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