Still and Silent
A few years ago, a book came out that I was quite taken with, titled, The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer. In need of some stillness, I took it off the shelf and reread most of it. It's a short book, intentionally so. No excuse not to read it, or even reread it. The book begins with the author visiting Leonard Cohen on his mountain, back when he lived on Mount Baldy, and took the name "Jikan" – meaning the silence between two thoughts.
A lot has happened since I first came across this book. We've lost Mr. Leonard Cohen, who so many of us revered. Right about when Leonard Cohen left us, politics changed, probably forever. Advice given at the time was to write things down so we could see how things would change, how what was not normal would seem to become normal, and as a way to keep the insidiousness at bay. A nervousness has crept into me, and maybe it's crept into you, as well.
After talking with Cohen, Iyer says this: "Sitting still as a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it; I'd seldom thought of it like that." Of the book he says, "This book is simply about how one person tries to take care of his loved ones, do his job, and hold on to some direction in a madly accelerating world." He goes on, "But I'd been reminded on the mountain that talking about stillness is really a way of talking about clarity and sanity and the joys that endure." And so that is the object of today's post, too. To find some stillness in the day for this type of clarity.
One can never go wrong in turning to the poet Mary Oliver's work when seeking some stillness, some quiet. I'm fond of a poem that appears in A Thousand Mornings, titled, "Today." It begins:
"Today I'm flying low and I'm
not saying a word."
"But I'm taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I'm traveling
a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple."
It seems very decadent, to be still, to be silent as a feather. Let's imagine a whole day of silence. A whole entire day.
In his poem, "Silence," from the book I Heard God Laughing, Hafiz says:
A day of Silence
can be a pilgrimage in itself.
A day of Silence
can help you listen
to the Soul play
its marvellous lute and drum.
The Japanese Tanikawa Shuntaro writes about silence in a poem full of questions.
Can You Hear?
by Tanikawa Shuntaro
How about being silent?
just a bit of time would do
how about staying silent,
newspapers, radios and you, too
(and also poets)?
Can you hear the quiet
that lurks between lovers at dusk?
Can you hear that quiet
in the gentle eyes of a deer looking at you
can you hear the quiet
the sky is always secretly hiding?
so quietly as to not deafen the quiet
can you say a good morning and a good night?
We don't have to go anywhere. We can just find a quiet corner. A window to look out of, a slice of the sky. Just a bit of time will do. A bit of time will help.
I'm going to find a day to fly low, quiet as a feather. I'm going to commune with the sky. Turn off the radio. The internet. I'm going to sit still and find ways to fall in love with this world, such as it is, again.