There's oh so much to be said for silence

There's oh so much to be said for silence

OPINION
PRICELESS: Father Brendan says everybody can learn a lot by simply taking some time to enjoy silence. Picture: Shutterstock

PRICELESS: Father Brendan says everybody can learn a lot by simply taking some time to enjoy silence. Picture: Shutterstock

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Give silence a chance. The longer you let it speak, the wiser it becomes.

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A young man joins a monastery and after seven years is made a monk. He's given the name Brother Keen, and the job of going to town once a month for the essentials of all the other monks.

After his very first trip, Brother Keen returns to the monastery, kneels before the chief monk and exclaims: "Oh Father Superior, I believe God is calling me to work in Ganmain."

"Ganmain?" asks the chief monk. "Why do you think God is calling you to minister in Ganmain?"

"Well, I was obediently on my way to the supermarket this morning and when I looked up, I saw a sign that read 'Ganmain Pies'. This is clearly a sign from God that I should work in Ganmain".

So, Brother Keen leaves the monastery and heads for Ganmain.

A few days later he returns to the monastery: "Oh Father Superior, I'm sorry. I was fooled by that pie in the sky sign. I'm back because I know I belong here."

Things were quiet at the monastery again, until the following month when Brother Keen returns from town and again falls on his knees before the boss. "Oh Father Superior, I believe God is calling me to work in Melbourne!"

"Melbourne?"

"Yes Father. I was going to the supermarket today and I took an accidental detour through the bottle shop.

"I saw a sign, clearly from God, that read Melbourne Bitter. I will go to Melbourne and ease their bitterness."

So, Brother Keen sets off for Melbourne. A few weeks later, Brother Keen returns.

"Oh Father, the devil deceived me again! I know Melbourne is bitter about the lockdowns, but I'm back because I know I belong here."

Well, you guessed it. The following month, Brother Keen returns claiming another revelation in the supermarket.

"Oh Father, I believe God is calling me to work in Worcestershire!"

The old superior rolls his eyes and moans: "You saw the Worcestershire sauce bottles!"

"Oh Father! You are so wise! Yes! And clearly this is a sign from God that I am meant to work in Worcestershire!" replies Brother Keen, as he runs off excitedly to make his way to Worcestershire. At this, one of the other monks standing there asks: "Father Superior, do you think we should stop sending Brother Keen to town for our shopping?"

The old monk thinks for a long time and says: "No. But, when Brother Keen eventually gets back from Worcestershire, you take him to the supermarket. And for heaven's sake, make sure the first thing he sees are the Mars bars."

This can happen to anyone these days and we call it being 'stuck in a rut'. It can steal our dreams and our soul. You will rarely see silence advertised on a sign - and never on TV because there's no money in it. But it's priceless.

By the time you're reading this, I'll be off on a week's retreat in silence.

A week a year spent away from the world and contemplating his life and soul is an ancient practice of priests that is, thankfully, becoming more common.

To spend a week in silence is a luxury few people can afford, and I doubt I would do it myself unless I had to.

But the practice of taking an hour or several hours off, even only once a year, to just sit in silence and muse on the state of our life is something almost anyone could do. But almost no one does. Why not? Perhaps we're not keen because we think it would be boring. Perhaps we might find those musings a little too interesting and even challenging.

But the benefits of a long contemplation on the state of our life are massive. Socrates went so far as to say "the unexamined life is not worth living". That sounds a bit harsh, but who am I to question one of the greatest minds that ever lived?

Perhaps we can meet him halfway. Socrates believed living in a continuous routine without examining what you want out of it is not worth living. This can happen to anyone these days and we call it being "stuck in a rut". It can steal our dreams and our soul.

You will rarely see silence advertised on a sign - and never on TV because there's no money in it. But it's priceless.

Give silence a chance. The longer you let it speak, the wiser it becomes.

Twitter: @frbrendanelee

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