Reverence In Silence
Reverence In Silence
by Ernest O’Dell
Guerrilla Real Estate Marketing
There’s an old maxim that says “Silence is golden.” If that is the case, then I am most wealthy, as I have experienced more of it than some, and less than others.
I was impressed one night-while on the ranch in the Texas Hill Country-to watch a meteor shower. I wondered if anyone in town saw it; or were they going about their own lives, in their own world, not noticing that the world was passing them by…
Standing under the stars, in a field just outside of Sundown, Texas, one can look up and see the waning moon, and just about south/southwest, Venus. If you look even closer, you might catch the International Space Station passing by… in silence.
The buzz and hum inside the space station, and the flurry of scientific activity doesn’t seem to bother the Universe. No, He’s not disturbed by your activity.
We wake up each day (or night, depending on which shift you work), some of us earlier than others, we turn on the TV and watch the news. We get in the car, commute to work and listen to talk radio.
I wonder if they’re listening to Rush and Hannity up there in the stars?
We arrive at work 30 minutes early, pour ourselves a hot, steamy cup of coffee, make light banter with the cute little, perky brunette in the cubicle next to me…
Then I slip into my comfortable leather chair in my cube, prop my feet up on my desk, put on my headphones and crank up Concerto No. 10 for 2 Pianos & Orchestra in E-Flat Major, K. 365… by Mozart.
Since I arrived 30 minutes early, I have just enough time to listen to the first movement of the Allegro, the Andante and the Rondeaux Allegro.
Ah! Brain food…
Eighteen hours later, I leave work, drive back to the ranch, and repeat everything in reverse order.
No, I’m not addicted to noise. And yes, it’s easy to fall into the habit…
…but I rush home to get back to my silent little world and watch the Universe pass me by.
It won’t be long before dawg and I nod off to sleep in the recliner, with Junior comfortable in my lap. And it won’t be long before I wake up to look out the window and see the waning moon as it circles high overhead to set in the west.
If there is any advice what to do with your earthly possessions, I have but one piece to offer: leave your kids and grandchildren an appreciation for silence. For it is only in silence that you can hear God whisper in your heart. He can only be heard in that “still, small voice,” and not amid the hub-bub of the incessant cacophony of daily life.
Warren Buffett once suggested you leave your children enough money so that they could do what they want, but not so much that they could do nothing. I guess those are wise words.
Donald Trump has pretty much done and said the same. He was raised by his father with a good work ethic and he, himself, has passed that on to his children.
Must be something to that “Billionaire Club” mindset…
Plato felt it was more important for parents to leave “…their children not riches, but the spirit of reverence.” It seems that reverence is in such short supply these days.
You don’t see it much and it’s almost totally non-existent in our daily affairs. Certainly it’s a rare commodity even in church.
Reverence means understanding human limitations. Not only our own, but the limitations of others. It’s a feeling of respect for what lies beyond our control: nature, truth, fate, life and death. It’s a healthy awareness that there is something much bigger than ourselves watching over this world.
It’s also an attitude of accepting life as it comes our way, and learning to be content in whatever station we find ourselves. Contentment is also a distant cousin along with reverence and silence.
Flawed as we may be, we fail to see the frailty in others. While we are too quick to point fingers of judgment and condemnation towards others, we fail to see the other three fingers pointing back at us.
Perhaps we should spend some time in silence and listen to St. Paul’s words in his epistles, or listen to the parables of our Lord. Perhaps a little silence and solace is in order…
Reverence girds us up with grace and civility to make life bearable and pleasant. It reminds us what’s important, what’s sacred, what’s worth protecting. Thucydides called it a cardinal virtue, existing universally across all cultures… for all times.
Reverence gives respect to those who are weaker: children, prisoners, the poor, the elderly.
Many equate reverence with religiosity. Yet this is not always the case. Although a little more of it could be injected into the liturgical environment, it is not limited only to your faith and religion.
Throughout history, religion and reverence have often gone their separate ways. Taken to extremes, religious beliefs sometimes engender just the opposite: intolerance, guilt, fear, ignorance, zealotry, and hatred.
Why? Because not all religions were initially based in reverence and tolerance. And I’m not talking about a politically correct version of tolerance. I’m talking about a “long suffering” tolerance for the stupidity that plagues us as humans.
You know the kind: that sort that besets us to know better, but yet we do things we shouldn’t, and we leave undone those things we should do?
In the West today, there are some who would have you believe that most of us live peaceably beside those with different beliefs. But such is really not the case.
A case in point is the intolerance displayed by militant zealots, extremists, and liberal minded politicians. It is in their own fanaticism that they display their hypocrisy.
What the devout admire is not faith, but reverence. Most people would reject the content of most religions, but they seem to stand in awe of some supposed standard of religious tolerance. That universal sense of wonder, respect, and humility is not to be found in over-abundance.
Some experience reverence in worship, in community with others, some find it in their gardens. Others discover it outdoors, sometimes at night, wondering if the angels could just sing a little louder.
Yet something else comes closer to capturing the true spirit of reverence: silence.
“Do you think the Universe is agitated?” asked Lao Tzu a few thousand years ago. “Go into the desert at night and look at the stars. This practice should answer the question.”
A quiet mind, freed from a noisy environment and the onslaught of continuous thought, has long been a signpost of spiritual development.
In Orthodox Christianity, the Church Fathers and Saints wrote voluminous treatises about silence and contemplative prayer. Silence is to be found within.
Silence creates the fertile soil for inner growth. Silent meditation is the path to true enlightenment from God. For how else can you hear Him if your mind is constantly thinking?
Silence allows for the development of heart and mind. Silence before worship is more beneficial than the most florid of homilies.
Claude Debussy reminded listeners that music is found in the space between the notes. Composer John Cage took this idea to an extreme and composed 4 minutes and 33 seconds of complete silence. (To this day, it’s the only piece I can play on the piano. It sounds even better than Mozart’s Concerto No. 12.)
Silence opens us to the experience of reverence. Yet many today lead noisier lives than ever. Some choose to live near busy highways and airports. I choose to live in the country.
Restaurants and retail stores blast rock and country music non-stop. Boutiques play a low, subtle volume of jazz, contemporary or classical music. Everybody seems to think that noise is a required component in our lives.
A study conducted by Pennsylvania State University found that urban teenagers listen to four and a half hours of pop and rap music a day. In our homes, radio and television broadcasts are punctuated with a steady stream of commercial messages at trumped up volumes.
I can’t wait until DTV puts analog TV to bed… forever, because I refuse to take part in the hoax of government sponsored coupons for converter boxes. May silence rule!
Noise… that’s my classification of pop and rap “music.” It only creates frustration and anxiety, especially for innocent bystanders.
Psychology professor Jonathan Haidt writes that “noise, especially noise that is variable or intermittent, interferes with concentration and increases stress. It’s worth striving to remove sources of noise in your life.”
Sensible advice. Silence reveals our weaknesses to us, our shortcomings. And God forbid that you should point out my frailty!
Silence manifests to us the person we are and the person we are capable of becoming. It is for this reason that we fill our lives with noise, to distract ourselves from the challenge to change.
Change… real change. Perhaps a real “change” we could live with… if only we could become more reverent…
This can be fixed, however. You can hit the off button, walk outside, take a walk in your garden, or a walk down a country road.
If you really can’t escape the barking dogs, screaming kids, or the Super Bowl, then do yourself a favor and buy a pair of noise-canceling headphones. They tell me that they actually work.
I was sitting at the top of the summit one day, out at the Brushy Top Ranch, just watching the sunset. It looked like heaven was coming down to earth to kiss us all goodnight.
As I sat there and listened, my mind asked me, “What do you hear?”
I heard the evening breeze blowing softly, the birds in the trees nearby, and the gazelles nearby, eating the grass. They seemed content that I wasn’t shooting at them, so they paid me no mind.
I looked around and saw the valley below, and the growing shadows of the sun setting behind the hills. I looked across the valley and saw cars going by on the highway, but couldn’t hear them.
“Wasn’t that great?” I asked myself.
“Yeah, it is.”
About that time my cell phone rang and broke the serenity.
I forgot to turn it off.
That won’t happen again.