It’s been more than a week since my last blog and I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little guilty. I tell myself “You should be writing”, but when I sat down to write the last couple days I felt as though I had nothing in particular to say. It wasn’t that I was without thoughts. It’s just that those thoughts had not yet formed into something worth writing about—yet.
Then I thought about this anecdote of Albert Eintstein:
Dr. Frank Aydelotte, the then President of Swarthmore College, once, invited Einstein as the guest of honor at a dinner.
When he was called upon to speak he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry but I’ve nothing to say.” The brief speech didn’t go well with the guests. Noticing this he arose again and added, “In case I do have something to say, I’ll come back.”
Six months later he wired Dr.Aydelotte, “Now I‘ve something to say.” Dr. Aydelotte promptly gave another dinner at which Einstein made his speech.
If this story is true I admire Einstein for his candor and bravery. It’s hard to admit we have nothing to say. We have all heard speeches when the speaker really had nothing to say. We have all listened to conversations when the person had nothing to say. What compels people to speak–or write–when they have nothing to say? I think it is because most of us are uncomfortable with silence.
Not my Dad. He loved silence. I can remember many times sitting with Dad on the front porch swing, or on a log in the woods while hunting, or in a boat on the lake while fishing–and nothing was said. Dad was comfortable with silence and, through his example, I became comfortable with it too. As a teenager I bought him a framed poster as a gift. The poster had a photo of a boy and a man sitting side by side, at dusk, on a dock by a lake. The two were obviously not talking and the words below the poster said “Those who say little love much.” My Dad still has that poster in his bedroom. Dad taught me to be comfortable with silence. It is a lesson I constantly need to re-learn.
We absorb a cluttered cacophony of chatter in our lives. Constant input from every arena and every electronic device makes it hard to listen to what matters. Mother Teresa said, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
We need silence to touch our own souls too. To hear God and hear ourselves think. To reflect. To ponder. To consider. We do too little of that. I have always liked the quote “We read too much and reflect too little.” We also talk/write too much and reflect too little.
We should not be afraid of silence and we should actively pursue it. We will be better, deeper, more thoughtful people if we take time for silence. I’m not talking about “vegging out” or being mindlessly lazy. I talking about thoughtful silence. No words spoken and none heard. No words written and none read. Try it. Push yourself over the speed bump of discomfort that will inevitably accompany silence at first. Practice silence until it becomes comfortable.
So if you think you haven’t see a blog from me in awhile you may be right. Perhaps I am practicing silence. I may be reflecting. Like Einstein, I may have nothing to say…for now. But like Einstein, I will come back when I have something to say.
I guess I did have something to say today.