Thursday, April 17, 2008

Solitude and Silence

April Book Drawing

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I'm giving away a book each month this year.

Thomas Merton calls solitude the most basic of the disciplines, saying, "True solitude cleanses the soul."

Do you prefer quiet atmosphere or noise? Does silence bother or soothe you? Most folks favor one or the other—incoming sounds or near-silence. I use the term near-silence because in homes, true silence is rare—electric appliances hum, houses creak, children make noise. Outdoors, crickets and frogs don’t seem to notice when I declare a moratorium on noise.

When my grandchildren come for a visit, I usually leave the TV off and clear the atmosphere for familial voices. Recently on such a day, three-year-old Jolie played with an acoustic youth guitar and requested paper and pen, saying, “I want to write you a song.”

Without intentional noise her imagination hummed. She drew ten sets of horizontal lines on the paper and placed many dots and squiggles on her scores. Her tune never soared off the page, but she played at “song” writing for half an hour.

If cartoons had been on the TV, would she have wanted to “write” her own song? Playtime without incoming rackets is a good thing, spurring thoughts to creativity. Children’s minds can be stimulated by play and parental guidance when other clamor is blocked.

Pediatrician Sherry Vincent suggests buying early childhood “silent” toys. Let kids learn to sing, beep, burp, and make truck engine sounds by observing the world around them. They really don’t need to hear sounds from toy-tutors. Good toys do exist, but many toy makers produce noise gadgets that rob children of thinking time, developing time, figuring things out time.

A “Reader’s Digest” article about robbing children of imagination says that up to 70% of toys point a child to a commercial site such as TV, movies or internet where writers have scripted play and interaction with make believe situations. And as we know, the dialogue and values presented may not revere God.

Orthodox Jewish families spend seven days each year in an outdoor makeshift shelter during the Feast of Booths. In temporary huts, they entertain guests, eat and even sleep. Their religious holiday removes them from home comforts to a temporary dwelling place, reminding them of the time when they wandered in the desert and God supplied their needs.

Quiet and solitude allow God room to work, to tug on the framework of our hearts, from the inside out. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us (Ephesians 3:20 The Message)

Lack of silence and solitude is a growing problem in the adult world, too. Many adults prefer fake characters on a TV show to their own family members. Corded and wireless devices bring too much to our eyes and ears. Do we really need to know the mating habits of fish in the Caribbean Sea when we scarcely know our children’s best friends?

Instead of giving your family updated electronics, why not gift them with a quiet hour in your home—no electronics or incoming noise is allowed. Try it. Allow children and adults the opportunity to read, play quietly or be alone to mull over ideas.

They may resist at first, cause a really loud ruckus, but persist and nail down quiet time for your home. Family solitude and silence allows members to notice each other, and as Merton says—that alone-time may well cause some soul cleansing.

Do you have a quiet place in your home or outdoors where you relax and draw near to God?


  1. Anonymous6:06 AM

    I enjoy these times of prayer and your thoughts.

  2. I love quiet and feel overwhelmed sometimes by all the city noises.I like to sit on my patio, listen to the birds and feel God's spirit all around me.Terry

  3. Keri Wyatt Kent3:37 PM

    I love solitude and silence, and I've trained my kids to appreciate these things as well.
    I've often created an oasis of quiet in our home through the years. My two kids, now 12 and 14, are very comfortable with silence-reading, drawing, and so on. this is a great post!