Let us be silent so we may hear the whisper of the gods. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
The natural home of the Visionmaker is the realm of silence. Turning from the noise and the haste of the world, the Visionmaker returns each day to periods of silence for sustenance and guidance.
Today, most people cannot tolerate extended silence. Life is carefully constructed to keep silence at bay. We attempt to vanquish silence through diversion –computers, television, radio and endless chat.
Silence is the domain of the unseen world. As Emerson reminds us, it is the place that one encounters "the whisper of the gods." It is here that we recover our equanimity, find solace, encounter the stillness that allows us to remember who we are.
The world around us batters our senses. How can we hope to see our heart's desire and understand what is most meaningful apart from silence? It is in this "world behind the world" that we can assemble ourselves for our rendez-vous with Destiny.
When I worked as a hard-rock miner, I had a unique opportunity to spend significant time in silence, alone in the underground darkness with my thoughts. Something happens to you a mile under the earth. Your vision of reality changes dramatically.
When you turn your headlamp off, there is a darkness unlike anything you have ever experienced. Usually darkness is no more than a reduction of light. Even night has some visual definition – the moon, stars, streetlights, a light in the hallway. Underground, without a headlamp for illumination, you can’t see your fingers an inch from your eyes.
That kind of darkness amplifies both the silence and the sounds: water dripping down the rock face, the whoosh of air concussing from a blast somewhere else in the mine, the sound of your own breathing.
Although your eyes have stopped apprehending the outer world altogether, sensory deprivation brings new awareness. Your eyes turn inward, and the blackness serves as a screen for other visions. Here you see your life projected in flashes backward and forward, glimpses of what you have been, done, thought, haven’t done; and imaginings and fantasies of life yet to be lived.
Death is native to this realm. You feel it in the air, knowing that this dark is not the darkness of sleep. They took a young man, your age, to the surface in his lunch bucket because he made a fatal error. To go to sleep in such a place for even a moment would be to totally surrender to Death, to relinquish any right to return to the surface where the world awaits you and life can be lived with the new clarity that comes from being temporarily entombed.
Every Visionmaker knows that silence is a mentor of purpose. It is always calling us back to the heart, back to meaning. Silence is the crucible that allows us to hear that primal question that lies beneath our self-talk: "How are you using the great gift of life?"
© Patrick O’Neill 2010. All rights reserved