“True silence is the rest of the mind and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment” (William Penn).
OUR NEED FOR QUIETNESS SEEMS TO INCREASE WITH EACH PASSING DAY. It’s a loud world we live in, in more ways than one, and we can’t stand loudness without some periods of relief. Torturers have always known that it’s possible to drive a human being insane by subjecting him to incessant noise, even if it’s no more than the dripping of water. We have an irrevocable need for quietness: our minds and hearts need stillness and silence in order to rest. And not only that, but they need these things in order to grow. “I cannot be the man I should be without times of quietness. Stillness is an essential part of growing deeper as we grow older” (Charles R. Swindoll).
Our need for quietness, however, shouldn’t send us into the woods or up to the mountaintop, there to live apart from any other living being. Quietness, like physical sleep, is a necessity now and then, but it’s not the ultimate goal of life, and we can’t allow our enjoyment of things like meditation to detract from our responsibilities to others. As Morton Kelsey suggests, “What we do with our lives outwardly, how well we care for others, is as much a part of meditation as what we do in quietness and turning inward.”
Yet there’s no denying that we need more quietness than we usually get in these days of urgent activity. The busier our lives become, the more discipline it takes to eke out times of solitude and serenity. It helps, I believe, to acknowledge the virtue of quietness. “Happiness is the harvest of a quiet eye” (Austin O’Malley). We’re too quick to dismiss the ideal of quietness, and its twin ideal of simplicity, as being outdated, and we need to get back to appreciating their goodness.
Quietness, to be frank, is an aspect of maturity — physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. Both the perception of its value and the discipline of its practice are things that require growth. And like most forms of worthwhile growth, quietness calls for commitment.
“If only I may grow firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer” (Dag Hammarskjöld).