We have bunnies in our garden, lots of bunnies. I'm sure that when my blackberries ripen, I won't be so enchanted by bunny antics, but right now, they are teaching us to be still and quiet, and to watch, rapt with wonder.
“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”
Those words were published in C. S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory in 1949. If the world was starved for solitude and silence and privacy then — before the internet and ubiquitous computers we carry in our pockets — can you imagine how emaciated we are now? We live in a culture where something didn’t happen unless it was captured in an image and tweeted, texted, snapped, or posted; then it must be liked, favorited and commented upon. Even the quiet moments are offered up for public discourse. And we do this all in the names of connection and friendship. There is a fine line between community and the gluttony of oversharing. Our survival as a civilization demands that we find that line and walk it carefully.
True friendship is found in the communication between souls, in understanding the deepest parts of oneself and one’s friend. That exquisite, careful communication is true of friendship between people and of friendship with God. Friendship requires comfortable silence in privacy and stillness. We are intended to live in community. We need one another to live and to grow. There is no doubt about it. However, it is in the silence — away from the voices of others — that we are able to examine ourselves and to learn what Jesus offers us, what He intends for our growth, both as His friend and as a friend to others.
When one experiences a near-panicked need to run and to tell and to talk and to post, that’s a sure sign that it’s time to schedule some quiet. If you are living only in a crowd, moving from one group of people to another, chatting incessantly with whomever will listen, posting picture after picture and constantly clicking hither and yon, beware. That is an earnest way to put distance between who you truly are and the people you’d have as friends, and the good God who waits to meet you in the quiet places. It is very easy to avoid God. Similarly, it is very easy to avoid genuine friendship with another person.
Lewis ponders, “How then, it may be asked, can we reach or avoid Him? The avoiding, in many times and places, has proved so difficult that a very large part of the human race failed to achieve it. But in our own time and place, it is extremely easy. Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you'd be safer to stick to the papers. You'll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.”
Some of the loneliest people are the ones making the most noise, banging furiously on pots and pans and blaring trumpets in order to keep people from being still and silent in their presence. They are afraid. They touch up and filter and offer themselves for public display, all the while terrified that someone will see them for who they are. They fill themselves with the noise of the `net, lest they hear His still, small voice and be shaken by His admonition.
Summertime offers opportunity. With the changing of the season comes the chance to change a practice, to develop a new way of doing things. Summer offers some cultural support to those who want to slow down a bit, move into the lane that isn’t whirring with activity and numbing interaction. Seize that slowness, and be very wary of filling it with more time engaging in the mind-numbing and soul-starving practice of filling quiet spaces with social buzzing. Instead, let this be a summer of slow connection and sacred spaces, a summer of quiet stillness and listening for still, small voices.