I am — quietly — counting my blessings today.
Here in Sydneytown we are experiencing a gloriously golden run of autumn weather: blue-skied and sun-filled by day, crisp and starlit by night.
This morning I was fortunate enough to spend time with a dear friend, to enjoy quiet conversation, a couple of coffees and good company.
And now, back at home, I am taking time to dive deep into silence that surrounds me, knowing that when I resurface it will be with a sense of renewal.
I have written before about the importance of solitude in my life, of taking time out to make sense of all that is in my head and of separating my self from my mad mental chatter. But lately, I have come to realise (yet again) just how essential it is for me to spend time in quiet contemplation. I have learned that if I don’t permit myself the time and space to be silent and still, I end up feeling a little like the poet Emily Dickinson — “out with Lanterns, looking for myself”.
For me, contemplation is linked, as ever, to my First Principles: words, music and food. There is something akin to healing for me in the act of writing, of making sense of my thoughts by creating something with words on a page. Similarly, I find solace in listening to music and to the timeless rituals of preparing food for my family — in both of these things I rediscover the rhythms that make my life more manageable, more meaningful.
Our lives these days are lived at such a frenetic pace, are filled with so many activities and events that it is easy to forget to unwind. To unplug.
We know that just about any electronic device we possess that suddenly stops working effectively will probably start working again if we reboot it, or let it recharge. But do we allow our selves this simple measure? Are we so focused on the future and driven by fear of missing out that we are forgetting to hit the refresh button on our lives? Do we remember to allocate time in our busy schedules for renewal? For revival?
The philosopher Alain de Botton suggests that “anxiety grows from thoughts we haven’t given ourselves time to have”, and I suspect he is right. He also speaks of “our disrespect for thinking: someone sitting in a chair, gazing out of a window, always described as ‘doing nothing’.”
When did we all become human doings instead of human beings, to the point that appearing to be doing nothing is frowned upon or even scorned? And when will we come to treat quiet contemplation as being essential to our wellbeing?
When will we make space for silence?
Because it is on the other side of silence that I find my place in this world, my moral compass, and — more often than not — I manage to catch a glimpse of whatever shiny thing I might otherwise have missed.
On the other side of silence, I find my self.