In, and out of the Silence

Can or should you remain in a state or place of “silence” or must or ought you return to the world?

My friend John has just written an interesting article on the “Allure of Sanctuary“.  He talks in wonderful terms of a place of safety.

Sanctuary, John says, may constitute both a safe physical location but equally importantly “it may simply require achieving a peaceful and calm state of mind”.

At the same time John envisages a return to the world:

Something important to remember, though, is that we cannot forget, even when we are in that place, that it’s not supposed to be a total disconnect from the WHOLE world, because every moment as a living being takes place in THIS world. It is mainly up to us to figure out how much is too much, and to what degree our disengagement must achieve in order to be useful and productive.

I replied to this as follows:

I guess there are worlds and there are worlds. Some are a pleasure to return to: a choir practice the other night at the Norman church I am sitting in at this very moment for instance. Despite the bickering the other night, it is the sort of world I can benefit from and enjoy. Then there is the world of business or politics both of which I find alien and distasteful ~ those are not worlds I wish to re-enter if I can help it. I like people, I like chatting, singing with them, having a quiet lunch. But somehow when money is at stake, or indeed so many other things which people feel strongly about, the whole atmosphere changes. And at that point I have to run back to the silence. I think it is partly an aging thing – a weariness for a world of cut and thrust one has come to find valueless.

I know where John is coming from. Physically speaking of course we can not disconnect from the world in its entirety. We are physical beings, we are fueled by food and water without which we can not survive.  We break and we wear: we may need penicillin or the mending of a broken bone.

And yet mentally speaking, metaphorically speaking, there are worlds to which I do not intend to return.

Another pen, friend Keith, gave me some valuable advice recently.  Again, he was no doubt speaking in allegorical terms for the most part but I suspect there was also a physical and practical element to his advice. His advice was to let go. Simply that. And I have taken it to heart, although I already knew its rightness.

It may well be that I am in one of those periods of calm, when the entire world seems to make sense to me. When I feel sure at some deep level that ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

But for whatever reason and whether temporary or otherwise, I have made some very important mental shifts recently. Seismic shifts and long may they endure.

Have I retired to a place of sanctuary and will I or should I re-enter the world at some stage?

To those questions I answer “yes” and “no” respectively.

But I sense that John is right when he talks of being “useful and productive”.   It is just that I do not believe I need to re-enter the “world” to achieve those objectives.  And I do not intend to.

Over the past few weeks I seem to have discovered a subtly different way of being. It is not that I despise the world or anyone in it. It just that I do not want to be part of “commerce” or “politics”. I do not want to argue with people, I do not want to engage in conflict of any sort.

The world I am willing to be part of is chatting to the old lady down the road who has just lost her husband. Talking to another elderly lady in the dusk on the outskirts of the village this evening. Just to engage in a detached and pleasant way with those I find around me.

And I think that in a very real sense John that by writing, you are in the world. You are contributing something  “useful and productive”. I have certainly found your writings to be thus. And I am sure others will have done so too.



  1. You are very generous to share my thoughts on this subject and it clearly has been an endeavor of mine to contribute something of value or benefit to those who visit my writings, and if it is possible for two thoughtful writers at such a great distance geographically to connect in the way we have, there is good cause to suppose that individuals much nearer to each other ought to be able to find common ground as well.

    I admire your writing endeavors very much and would be glad one day to be able to emulate your courage in expressing your views so forthrightly and with such candor.

    If what I share has even the slightest good effect on your well-being, and on that of others who read what I write, I would consider it more than sufficient cause to continue with the effort.

    Kindest regards….John H.


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