The Sound of Silence…

Something caught my eye on my Facebook page – a small article about the beneficial effects of silence. In part, it said, ” A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.”

Hmmm…can it be that our brains need silence in order to regenerate? Silence? You know, that slightly uncomfortable situation when there is no noise to distract, annoy or amuse.

We live in a world in which silence is a very rare commodity. Even here in my little part of the universe, living in a heavily forested area beside a small lake, there are always the sounds of dogs barking, traffic on the nearby highway, construction machinery from the new development just over the hill, leaf blowers, lawn mowers and someone’s radio.

In fact, I think that the lack of silence has made us a people who are uncomfortable with the absence of sound. We rush to fill in a space in a conversation, wake up to the sound of the radio, immediately turn on the television as we come into the house, set up our phones and computers with buzzes and whistles and snatches of our favourite tunes. Our cars beep when we unlock the doors and beep goodbye when we re-lock them. Loudspeakers fill hallways, elevators, shopping malls and the dentist’s office with the sounds of the ubiquitous noise called Musak. And we sit on hold on the telephone for hours, listening to the same piece of advertising over and over.

If you travel, think of the cacophony of an airport, a railroad station or a bus station. There is no escape.

Yet God tells us, “Be still and know that I am God.” We are reminded to listen for “the still, small voice.”

It’s time to cultivate silence, seek it out and give our poor old brains a little growing space. More importantly, that same silence nourishes our spirit and leads us into new understandings of the presence of God.





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The day the world ended…

September 11th. Nine-eleven. “That day…”

We all remember it. Where we were, what we were doing, who was with us, how we felt. Some of us remember with grief for lost family and friends. Most remember with fear and horror, emotions that remain with us, like small dark shadows at the back of our minds.

We all experience the lingering thought that no one is safe. No place is inviolate from terror. There is nowhere to hide in our world.

We find ourselves glancing over our shoulder at that suspicious looking person. Taking a deep breath as we get on an airplane and see someone who looks like “one of them”.

We have lost our innocence and in so doing, we have lost our humanity. We now see the world as “us and them”, and refuse to accept that our world, this new reality, does not mean we have to build barriers between peoples.

So, we close our doors to those seeking refuge. We close our minds to understanding that being different is not being evil. We close our hearts to our brothers and sisters and we call it “prudence”. We listen to inflammatory rhetoric and nod our heads in agreement.

September 11th. The day the genie of fear was let out of the bottle and can’t be put back in. The day that heaven wept.




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Consider the waterlilies…

I love the waterlilies that border our end of the lake. I’ve been used to seeing the bright yellow ones (probably not really waterlilies at all), but here, there are the beautiful white ones with the heavenly scent. It’s like looking at Monet’s famous picture.

Occasionally, I’m able to snag one from the edge of the dock and take it home to sit in a bowl on the coffee table, filling the living room with the beautiful fragrance. Like I said, I love the waterlilies.

We’re now at the end of the summer season. For the past few months, the dock has been busy with swimmers and boaters, dogs and little children. It’s a busy place with a shallow sand beach for the toddlers and a diving raft a little further out in the lake for the more adventurous. But, early this morning, with a warning chill in the air, I had it all to myself.

Dog and I trotted out to the end and I sat with my feet dangling over the edge. The water was still warm so I knew that later in the day, folks be arriving for that last summer swim. But for the moment, it was all mine.

I looked out over the waterlily bed. Dragonflies were skimming over the water, and a little further out, a couple of ducks were arguing over diving rights. The sun was warm on my back, and for a blissful moment, all was well with my world.

Then I noticed something. Two empty soda cans were bobbing among the flat leaves, along with a cigarette package. The sun glinted off a potato chip bag, caught in the weeds. A couple of crumpled sandwich wrappers littered the shore as well as a plastic grocery bag. As I began to look more closely, I could see some abandoned running shoes, an old towel, and the remains of a broken sand shovel. The final insult: two piles of doggy doo, obviously from large dogs, deposited right next to the little beach.

“People,” I muttered to myself, “spoil everything!”

And even as the thought crossed my mind, I wondered if God, looking out over Creation, has ever felt the same way.



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