In a world full of activity, buzzing, shuffling, practicing, and sitting in silence is how I’ve come to ground myself. But what does practicing silence look like when I’m in an environment where the atmosphere shocks my senses with a lot of noise? Silence to me usually entails a close to complete absence of any mechanical sound, sometimes the absence of people and voices, but on campus, a break in silence could range from a three-a.m. bathroom karaoke and loud music from neighboring rooms at twelve midnight to the sound of a public announcement system from a distance. It seems like there is no discretion whatsoever when it comes to sounds. No moment of silence except for times when my furious brain shuts down for an episodic rest. Can I find silence and rest in the place?
This morning, I come for silence in the old chapel, only to find that it is closed, so I go to one of the benches in the garden in front of the old chapel. Immediately, I am greeted by the sound of a weed-whacking machine and the fresh smell of cut grass. More noise! I have my mask on but I’m already sniffling. Attempting to tune out the noise, I put my earpiece into listening to musically composed sounds of nature, yet I have a natural symphony right outside my ears – minus the weedwhacker of course. I want to focus and take in the quiet morning, but it is difficult to concentrate, so I unplug my earphone and the first thing I hear is the mechanical buzz of the weed-whacking machine. It is still there! The smoke is visible. I taste the smoke. I slightly cough and wish that the noise will stop so I can just hear the birds. There is also the sound of the local brooms brushing against the earth’s skin as it massages every pore and grain. O, that there may be silence just enough to hear only the birds.
Yet, I see and feel the radiant beam of the sun piercing through the shade providing tent of leaves on my right side – a benediction unto my weary soul. Vitamin D and more as my portion and an isle of blooming flowers in its rawness for my contemplation. In the backdrop, the gardeners’ brooms continue their screeching dance. Suddenly I am reminded that the gardener of my soul calls me to embrace the symphony. All of it. Tuning it out won’t help. I can only join in. To join in this orchestra is to dance arm in arm, breath to breath, and body to body with the noise that fearlessly grows around me.
What then is silence? Silence now, I find, is the embracing of the melodies of nature in its orchestration such that the voice and peace of God is felt, shared, seen, and lived with all who are in it. I don’t know how long this will last, but I know I found silence today and it looked very different – it was a new kind. And I hope to find it again.