Stephanie Hill: Silence reveals God's beauty and love for his creation
"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity." -- From "Middlemarch" by George Eliot, pen name for Mary Anne Evans
Running through the park in Huntington recently, a squirrel darted across the path in front of me. Wrapped up in my own thoughts, like one wears a tightly belted wool coat while walking in a stiff winter wind, I almost tripped over the little furry creature. The squirrel seemed to notice my stuttering steps and paused, nut between its front paws, head cocked to one side, then to the other, and scampered quickly to the opposite side from which he came, and dashed up a tree.
I continued on my way, refocusing my thoughts to the self-talk gibberish that gets me through a tough run. "You can do this. Only 10 more minutes to go. Think of how proud you'll be when you finish."
Images of that squirrel, though, head cocking, paws clinging to food, kept jabbing my brain like a fork trying to poke through a tough piece of meat. What was this simple creature trying to communicate? Why had it literally crossed my path?
Driving home later, after picking up my daughter, Madelyn, from soccer practice, an old U2 CD was playing when I heard the line from the song "Breathe," "the roar that lies on the other side of silence." I asked Maddie if she heard those words, and restarted the song for her. "I don't get it," she said. Used to my quirkiness, though, Maddie added, "Do you want me to send you a text with those words in it?" I nodded "yes," and we continued on our way.
I felt certain this line was significant. Discovering that Bono had inserted an allusion to a great literary work into his lyrics was an intriguing discovery -- one I found thanks to the Internet. I have not read this book, but I will certainly add it to my "to-read" list. Reading the excerpt from Evan's book, however, further convinced me the squirrel incident had not been coincidental.
How often do we stop, really stop and just be? No TV, cell phone, computer, no music playlist pumping out tunes -- just you, utterly alone, and still. I am reminded as I write this of the few times my home has been without electricity -- especially during a nighttime thunder storm; or snowfall, when traffic outside my home on Ohio 243 halts. There is no buzz of electricity through the lines. No refrigerator, water pump, heater or air conditioner kicking on and off -- just complete, peaceful, uninterrupted silence.
Often, in the early morning hours, when I wake around 4:30 or so, I get up, coffee in hand, and just sit in my family room -- soft back lighting, no electronic devices on, and I breathe. I am reminded of the beautiful word, "Om," often chanted at the end of my yoga DVDs during meditation.
"Om," as I am to understand it, possesses quite a deep philosophical meaning. Researching its meaning and history can lead to hours of reading. I like to Christianize its meaning, however, and think of it as the Holy Spirit.
"Om," I've read, is the sound God uttered as he created the universe. It also symbolizes past, present and future lives, all interconnected.
It can further mean the Divine, to me that would be the Holy Spirit, residing within each of us. I am strongly connected to those beliefs.
First of all, how exquisite to think of the sound of rushing air as God breathed his grace into the silence of nothing, and created our beautiful and magnificent universe? How further glorious to see this same breath ushered into a baby's lungs at birth.
Take it one step further, how splendid to see this same hand of God guiding the grass to grow and the squirrel's heart to beat. All living things wrapped in the breath of God -- interconnected, interdependent, interlocked in God's loving hands.
If I sincerely believe my simple definition of "Om," then God, through the Holy Spirit, resides within each human I encounter. I believe that is why tears filled my eyes this summer watching a seemingly homeless and grossly unkempt man move down 4th Avenue from one trashcan to another, removing half-eaten food, partially filled cups as he ate and drank from each. I should add that Maddie and I watched this from the comfort of Tropical Moon. I did nothing. I sat in stunned silence. He is one of God's creatures. How did he get to this utter state of depravity?
Remembering that God created each person we encounter is an important and humbling fact to remember. It haunts me afterward when I make fun or criticize another.
Additionally, if I will keep it in my forethoughts, it grounds me from being too quick to judge. Unfortunately, it does not always stop me; and, I am brought to humility once again.
Being still, through meditation, prayer or simply breathing -- focused on the silence, so that, in the words of Emerson, "we may hear the whisper of God," is an important practice, I believe.
The silence provides us with the "keen vision" to which Evans referred, and allows us to hear, and later, as we move throughout our day, perhaps see, the "roar" of God's voice.
May today, just for a moment or two, we pause in silence so that later we may hear and see God's beauty and love, infinitely surrounds us, if only we are willing to look and listen.
Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.