Monday, December 31, 2012


“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” 
~ Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Evidenced by the fact that I began to listen to music  directly after typing that quotation. How quickly I forget that Beauty most often finds one in stillness. How readily I push aside God's messages delivered by silence and solitude. 

The whole world clamours and clangs with noise. Even our eyes are assaulted by 'visual noise' - billboards, skyscrapers and 1960s apartment buildings, badly hung Christmas lights, vulgar lawn ornaments, and the like. There is the disarray of 'stuff' all 'round us. Rather than making our lives better, 'stuff' can simply clutter our homes and gardens, as well as our thoughts. Many persons attest to being unable to think or study well in a messy area, myself included. 

Visual chaos and the din of television, films, iPods, et cetera almost constantly fill our minds or blunt our senses. "What of it?" one might ask. Think for a moment of what you do when you go for a walk or run. Do you put in earbuds? Talk on the phone? When you sit down at your desk or kitchen table, do you pull out your smart phone, computer, or a book? Can you fall asleep without music? Do you ever simply look out the window and think in silence?

Outside my window tiny white faeries flutter and float, flurry and fall. Trying to watch individual flakes makes me nearly dizzy, they are coming so quickly. There is something calming about snow, or a blanket of fog. Both give a covering of quiet to ponder, to let the thoughts we push away with noise come forth from their banishment: Do I have what it takes to be a man? Will anyone ever love me for who I am? What am I here for? Do I even make a difference? Is living any better than dying? What if so-and-so dies? How will I support myself when I am older? What will happen if other people find out how little I really know? Am I just faking it through life? Who is God? Is God really real, is He really there? Does God care about me? Why would He? Who am I, behind this skin and those eyes in the mirror - who is this I inside? 

In solitude and stillness I realise I have more questions than answers. Sure, I have a vague idea of how to answer some of the above questions. However, if I spent an hour thinking about Who God is, I might find how little I actually know Him. I know about Him, and in small degrees I know Him, as a person knows another person early on in a friendship. But do I truly know Him? 

When faced with thoughts about family or friends dying, I try to push them aside - usually successfully. It is too hard, too painful to think of them actually being gone from this life. Likewise, I am accomplished at ignoring thoughts about the future state of our government,  how long my bank account will be worth something, or where I will be in ten, twenty, or thirty years. I do not like depressing thoughts, yet sometimes I really do have to face them. Sometimes the pain from 'out there' comes 'in here'. The brokenness of the fall is not just for other people. I, too, experience the fall in my own circle of friends, in my own family, in my own life, in my own body.

Solitude brings these thoughts to the surface, rather rapidly, in fact. No wonder Pascal said that a man is unable to sit in a room quietly and alone. We want to be distracted from the questions  we cannot answer, the thoughts we do not like. We do not want to think about how far we fall short. We hide from rejection and loss. We block it all out with constant music (degrading the worth of music to mere background noise), non-stop communication, and busy-ness.

Have you been running away from your thoughts? Are you ignoring God's arms wide open to you by running the course of the noisy world? When was the last time you sat down to listen to God? Do you often (or ever) turn your phone, music, and computer off completely? Have you taken a walk in silence recently? When was the last time you faced your thoughts rather than fleeing them? How about practising solitude today... Right now.

~ Johanna