Creative Writing Saturday

The Way of Silence

“I believe in silence. In its power and its persuasion.

I believe that the act of saying nothing often—no, usually—speaks louder than words ever could.

Monks know this. From Thich Nhat Hanh to Thomas Merton to the Dalai Lama, monks know and understand the deeply felt significance of the unspoken.

Poets know it, too. E. E. Cummings said: Silence is a looking bird. Not a singing bird. A looking bird. A bird observing, noticing, listening. Being. Here. Now.

But so do we ordinary women and men know the profound power of silence. Intuitively, we know it.

Consider the wordless communication between mother and newborn at her breast. Or the tacit tête-à-tête that exists in a hospital room where the dying lies in bed and the friend sits, silent, at her side.

I believe in the authority of silence.

What if governments, rather than reacting with statements and decrees, observed silence—briefly but routinely—at times of crisis? What if we, the citizens, stopped to quietly reflect on the day’s news, rather than jumping into the fray with rushed judgments and verbal crossfire?

Silence has its own eloquence.

Think of the times you dissolved a disagreement by not giving expression to the negative emotions it stirred in you.

I believe silence is a way of affirming life, even in a democracy—which, at its heart, is a public conversation. Let’s not forget: conversation implies alternating patterns of listening and talking—equal parts silence and speech.

Imagine an election campaign where no one spoke unless they had something to say. Where silence was imposed for, oh, a calming few minutes after a debate or a misspoken word—so we could meditate on what was said (and not said) before grumbling hordes of commentators burst forth to tell us what we heard.

Think of silence in music, the pause—that empty moment, a bridge between what came before and what is to come. A moment of awareness of the present, with a nod to the past and an ear turned to the future.

Silence, Mary Oliver says, gives poetry its rhythm and music. So too our lives need silence—patches of nothingness, ellipses of emptiness, to inform the drumbeat of our days. And of our duties.

Think of the heroes and movements that used silence to change the world. Silence, as in the refusal to act in bad faith, to follow immoral orders, to go along with wars and poverty and discrimination and the earth’s destruction.

I believe in silence, in its yearning for wholeness, its desire to close the breach, its urge to unite what’s come asunder.

Silence too often gets a bad rap. It’s not apathy or surrender. It’s not looking the other way.

Likewise, speaking is not necessarily speaking out. Sometimes words get in the way of reconciliation. They convey noise, not knowledge.

Imagine allowing conflict to settle, rather than engaging it—ratcheting up a level, and a level, and a level. Think of the Dalai Lama’s soundless smile, Gandhi’s quiet walk, Martin Luther King’s carefully placed pauses in his stirring orations. Think of anti-war protests where there were songs and speeches, and think of those conducted wholly in silence.

Imagine a nation that listened rather than blogged and posted. A nation that, in times of turmoil, gave itself permission to be still, to not speak, not act—until all that was unspoken was given time and space to make its case, to be taken into account.

Imagine that.

“Silence is never really silent,” the composer John Cage said.

This I believe.” ~ Dianne Aprile


Daily Om Thursday

Why We Are Not Shown the Big Picture:
Fully Committed to Now

Sometimes, we may find ourselves wishing we knew what our lives are going to look like or what gifts and challenges are going to be presented to us in the coming months or years. We may want to know if the relationship we’re in now will go the distance or if our goals will be realized. Perhaps we feel like we need help making a decision and we want to know which choice will work out best. We may consult psychics, tarot cards, our dreams, and many other sources in the hopes of finding out what the future holds. Usually, at most, we may catch glimpses. And even though we think we would like to know the whole story in all its details, the truth is that we would probably be overwhelmed and exhausted if we knew everything that is going to happen to us.

Just think of your life as you’ve lived it up to this point. If you are like most of us, you have probably done more and faced more than you could have ever imagined. If someone had told you as a child of all the jobs and relationships you would experience, along with each one’s inherent ups and downs, you would have become overwhelmed. With your head full of information about the future, you would have had a very hard time experiencing your life in the present moment, which is where everything actually happens.

In many ways, not knowing what the future has in store brings out in us the qualities we need to grow. For example, it would have been difficult to commit yourself to certain people or projects if you knew they wouldn’t ultimately work out. Yet, it was through your commitment to see them through that you experienced the lessons you needed to grow. Looking back on your life, you would likely be hard pressed to say that anything in your past should not have happened. In fact, your most challenging experiences with their inevitable lessons may have ultimately brought you the greatest rewards. Not knowing the future keeps us just where we need to be—fully committed and in the present moment.

 ~ Madyson Taylor, Daily Om

divider4If you are like me, you have a love/hate relationship with surprises. While I love the idea of a thrilling surprise, I am also a very impatient and curious person, and ‘Let me see, let me see!” is my common refrain. I know that this is terrible, but when I was little, I used to surreptitiously open up my Christmas presents to see what was hidden inside. My mother never knew, until I told her as an adult. I grew out of this stage, but my desire to know what hidden gem lay inside the package remained. Similarly, I used to approach life that way.

I thought that if I knew the future, I could avoid the mistakes, doubts, bad choices, hurts, regrettable decisions, and the inevitable feelings that go with them. In essence, my goal was to avoid the very things that lead to life lessons and wisdom. There is no doubt that there are things in my life that if I’d known the outcome of my actions, I would have chosen differently.

Fortunately, I’ve grown to appreciate the comfort of the unknown. It allows us to dwell in the present, the only moment of certainty, and it provides us the freedom to act without being hampered by the knowledge of the future. In reality, even if we are given a glimpse of the future and the outcome based on our own present actions, we must remember, to weigh the fact that each of us is connected, and that the actions of others affect the outcome of our own future. The wonder of life is that it is unpredictable and subject to change and if a single moment changes, it can greatly affect future outcomes. (Just thinking about it, makes my head hurt.)

One point that the article makes is “Looking back on your life, you would likely be hard pressed to say that anything in your past should not have happened.” Well, I disagree with this statement. Granted, it is true to a large extent. Nevertheless, after witnessing various outcomes caused by my actions, there are several choices that I would change post-haste. Specifically, those that involve the harmful fall out upon other people, which is almost always the case. In most instances, we never choose with the intention to harm others, but almost always, unanticipated collateral damage follows. Of course, we must face our actions but doing so brings with it both a lesson and strength.

I sincerely doubt that I would be the person that I am today, blessed with all the people and things that I love, if I’d known what the future held for me. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and even though we do not see it immediately, we will come to realize it when the time is right. Every person and thing, even those we consider unpleasant, are in our lives for a reason, and only by accepting and embracing them as integral to our journey, do we learn from them and of their importance. Much like knowing the ending of a good book or movie, knowing “the big picture” robs us of the experience of living our lives as they should be — in the present.



Quote Tuesday

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” ~ C. Joybell C.


Day 5 of 5-Day Art Challenge

I am sorry that I am just getting around to posting day 5 of the art challenge. I took a day off because my body was screaming for me to take a breather. Afterwards, I simply forgot to post them. While taking that day off, I learned that the 3-piece-per-day requirement, need not have been new work. I did not understand that sooner.

Nevertheless, I am glad that I did not know earlier. Had I known, I would not have challenged myself to create something new each day — three of them. The challenge gave me a great deal of insight into myself, Instead of creating with my heart, I’ve thought with my head, which, as a  result, left untapped, the wealth of creativity that welled within me. Instead of letting go, I was holding back the very thing that I needed to grow as an artist. The strictures that I placed upon myself, kept me from realizing the depths of my creative abilities. The experience not only boosted my confidence and resolve, but demonstrated what I can do when I move beyond my self-imposed limitations. By accepting this 5-day challenge, I grew as an artist, more than I had after months of painting. The very fact that I can refer to myself as an “artist,” is evidence of how much I have grown.

During the challenge, I completed nine pieces of new art, so on the last day, I choose to post some of my favorite pre-existing work. So, I share with you, the last three pieces of the art challenge.  Thank you for taking this journey with me.