Silence can be a source of great strength

It’s difficult to find inner peace these days. The world we thought we knew – at least the bubble some of us lived in – has been disintegrating before our eyes. Nasty politics with questionable policies, chaos in British politics, the uncertainty of the upcoming U.S. elections, the escalation of a cruel unprovoked war in Ukraine, ongoing wars and “skirmishes” elsewhere, literally millions of displaced people, and spreading areas of famine … the volume of crises seems to keep rising.

Aside from political and geopolitical disturbance turmoil, our planet is suffering badly from our lack of follow-through in addressing the wounds we have dealt it through climate change and ocean pollution. The nearly-mortal wounds are becoming mortal. Just today in The Guardian newspaper, one headline said it all: Current emissions pledges will lead to catastrophic climate breakdown, says UN.   We’ve been experiencing the beginning of what this means this past year, with a continuing run of extreme weather events around the world.  Meanwhile, in the same edition, the Guardian offered a reminder of the wonders of the natural world that we are knowingly destroying, by sharing the miraculous story of the record-setting little bird, the bar-tailed godwit. We share the same environment, but the bar-tailed godwit doesn’t contribute to its degradation. What a contrast, what a champion.

A juvenile bar-tailed godwit  … has flown 13,560 kilometres from Alaska to the Australian state of Tasmania without stopping, appearing to set a new world record for marathon bird flights. The five-month-old bird set off from Alaska on 13 October and satellite data appeared to show it did not stop during its marathon flight which took 11 days and one hour. Tagged in Alaska, the bar-tailed godwit, Limosa lapponica, flew at least 13,560km (8,435 miles) before touching down at Ansons Bay in north-east Tasmania.Sience-Godwit

Increasingly, I have find myself overwhelmed by the scope and scale of the disasters we humans have inflicted on fellow human beings and on the planet which has sustained us and all the other creatures that inhabit the Earth. And that feeling of being overwhelmed takes me back to a meaningful blog post I read a few months ago, called The Force of Silence. I hope you may find its message as helpful as I did.

Silence is the music of the soul, the voice of the heart that reaches where words are useless, the place where we can listen to our inner guidance.

Lao Tzu wrote: “Silence is a source of great strength.” It is linked to an inner strength that, over time, should be nurtured more and more, to resist the external din and preserve a peaceful heart and a perpetual state of awareness. The word ‘strength’ could be coupled with the word ‘courage’.

Silence-Moon In a world filled with noise, silence is golden.

Talking about silence is a bit like explaining a poem. It is a gift we should give ourselves, a break from all that surrounds us, but above all the chance to become witnesses to our thoughts and our interiority, that moment of recollection during which we allow ourselves to do only one thing: listen.

We are not doing much for the world. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, man has destroyed over 30% of the forests and the marine ecosystem since 1970. The destruction has been an unintended consequence of population growth, the desire to increase material wealth and comfort, and the resulting need for more energy.

But we are not only doing this to our world.

We are also doing the same to our mind. The destruction of our inner self through the wired world is an even more recent phenomenon. The loss of slowness, of time for reflection and contemplation, of privacy and solitude, of silence, of the ability to sit quietly in a chair for fifteen minutes without external stimuli, is threatening the very concept of our humanity.

Silence is a real treasure that we carelessly neglect, except to stuff ourselves with pills to quell anxiety; two lines on the value of silence. The mind reacts to external stimuli: environment, sounds, smells, visions, and the only way to ‘put the engine to idling’, to use automotive terms, is the act of tuning out and thus shutting out the senses.

In 2016, journalist Andrew Sullivan published an article in New York Magazine entitled I used to be a human being. The subtitle was: “A constant bombardment of news, gossip and images has made us frantically addicted to information. I am broken and it could happen to you too.”

Today we are dealing with a real ‘feedback addiction’, where attention and concentration are on the razor’s edge. Cal Newport, a lecturer at Georgetown University, writes in his book Digital Minimalism, “The issue is the general impact of being surrounded by so many different shiny trinkets that insistently call our attention and manipulate our mood.” We are so surrounded and immersed that “the irresistible attraction to the screen leads people to feel that they are increasingly losing their autonomy in choosing where to direct their attention.” -linate

He concludes by encouraging us to incorporate the gift of silence in our lives, that music of the soul. And, please, let’s help the world and our planet at the same time.

Silence-Planet

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32 Responses to Silence can be a source of great strength

  1. heimdalco says:

    Such a sad commentary on the state of this world AND the situation of destruction we’ve brought to it. So many things happening negatively from so many directions & sources. It breaks my heart.

    In addition to the peace we find in stolen moments of silence, the part of this post that shouts loudest & with the most positivity is the bar-tailed godwit. What phenomenal determination, focus, strength, tenacity & direction that little bird has towards accomplishing its goal & destination. It is an inspiring example to all of us. It speaks of what CAN be accomplished even in the midst of global chaos. It offers HOPE. That is my takeaway from this thought provoking post … primarily because we need that example & we certainly need a hero. That little bird is officially MY HERO.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh, Linda, I’m so pleased that you were attracted to that remarkable triumph of nature, the godwit. And this little record-breaker was only 5-months old, flying that extraordinary distance on his own, his first trip. A miracle, and a good choice for a hero. We’ve GOT to turn around our destruction of our planet, for the godwits, whales, and polar bears, if not for ourselves. Btw, happy birthday to your little grandson!

      Liked by 1 person

      • heimdalco says:

        Thank you so much for the birthday wishes to Greyson. I can’t believe he’s a year old. May our planet somehow right itself, our people somehow FIND the goodness in ourselves & our politics to be less abusive & more a working together effort so that little Greyson, your grandkids & the next generation can soar like the godwit above a peaceful planet that sustains humans & all life for millennia to come.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dreamer9177 says:

    I cherish my silence almost as much as my music. Both give me peace.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. dfolstad58 says:

    Thanks Jane for this topic. Two things struck me. It seems we resist silence. When we speak with others, we may feel uncomfortable with pauses in the discussion. The biggest compliment I think is when pauses with someone are comfortable and testament to how relaxed you are with them. Secondly my grandmother had a plaque on her wall of a fish and it read “even a fish wouldn’t get into trouble – if it kept it’s mouth shut”. My contributions, chuckle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. At times, the problems of the world seem overwhelming. And yet…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mary Rimmer says:

    Living as I presently do next to a busy street I have a hard time finding silence, but since I’ve become a citizen scientist who contributes to EBird I’ve been getting better at tuning out the traffic. Observers are supposed to take a block of time, say fifteen minutes, and then record all the birds we see/hear in that time. I suppose bird calls are by definition not silent, but one has to be silent and unplugged to hear them. And birds aren’t always singing (especially at this time of year): often I’m simply watching finches or sparrows rooting among fallen leaves or digging seeds out of sunflower or sumac heads. It’s amazing how regenerative those fifteen minutes of watching/listening can be–it’s as though I find a silence within myself. I usually don’t observe anything rare or special (no godwits!), but I’m still contributing information that I hope will help conservation in the long run. It has certainly helped me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh my, Mary, this is fascinating. Thank you for pointing me to EBird as a new way to interact with nature. I love the phrase you use, “find a silence within myself.” I think that’s the crux of the issue. Thanks again for introducing me to EBird.

      Like

  6. I have been thinking about meditation to reclaim some peace, some “interiority.” What a wonderful word. We all need to care for and protect our interiority, as you’ve said so well. It’s a struggle in the context of your parallel point, which I will paraphrase as #WeAreOutOfTime. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for this, Martin. I also liked the word “interiority”. I had to look it up to make sure I was correct in my interpretation. Meditation crossed my mind when I read on this topic as well; to date I have not had much success with my attempts at it. I guess I need to try harder, or probably try with more patience!

      Like

  7. “Silence is the music of the soul, the voice of the heart that reaches where words are useless, the place where we can listen to our inner guidance.” Ahh. If only we could appreciate and encourage more silence…more thoughtfulness…more caring.
    Powerful post, Jane. Thank you ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Roy McCarthy says:

    A good lesson Jane. Periods of silence, contemplation, meditation fuel the spirit and bring balance to our personal lives, give us perspective, allow us to crack on with renewed strength and purpose. It probably won’t save the world (those that could save it are seemingly happy to go down with the ship) but we’ll be more able to be decent people while we can.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful article and totally agree “Silence is Golden”. At times I miss the silence of the Northern forests I enjoyed earlier in life but increasingly find I can tune out here in a park.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Rose says:

    Such a thoughtful post Jane. It seems most of life is too loud … schools, colleges, careers, inner cities, politics… I don’t know how people live with such constant noise. I’m fortunate now, to live in a household and a neighborhood that is fairly quiet. It gives me the silence I need to think, to contemplate, to observe, to research and read about ways to create a healthier world. I feel sad for folks who don’t have the opportunity, or see the need to enjoy silence.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Bernie says:

    I have all the personal silence I need living out here in the country. I need to remind myself of a little more digital silence for sure. As to the world going to h*** in a handbasket. All of those big things seem so unchangeable by an individual and totally overwhelming if you watch the news day in and day out. And yet we must stay informed and we must keep the pressure on the politicians the policymakers the Ceos. For my part I’m going to ask a distant neighbor to have a little bit less environmental pollution. Routinely from sunset to sunrise he has 50 lights on his house and his garage. It’s absolutely a light pollution and an environmental stupidity.

    Like

  12. debscarey says:

    Silence is a huge part of my grounding process, so I’m fortunate in living in a relatively quiet area. That said, a railway line runs nearby, but I find it doesn’t intrude which I suspect is to do with my daily mindfulness meditation practice. I especially like the fact that the focus is on accepting that you’ll get distracted so I never feel a failure at it.

    Like

  13. A timely post, Jane. I literally just read about the Mississippi River water levels plummeting to historic lows because of drought conditions. If the middle of the U.S. can’t now see what climate change and global warming is happening to them, then we all lose. I pray they silently contemplate that. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Good example, Marty. The pictures of the dry parts of the Mississippi – and the Rhine – are both scary. Really scary. I think the Thames and other major rivers are in similar straits. And all in our lifetime. When will we ever learn? It’s looking more and more like the answer is “not soon enough”. I’ll pray with you (and that’s a rarity for me!). 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Love love love this one Jane. Silence is much more than golden. It is absolutely priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Excellent post, Jane. I think that one of the reasons meditation is so popular is that people feel a desire to tune out all the noise to de-stress. Quiet time is very calming to me and can help put things in perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

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