QuietnessSeptember 23, 2008
Every movement needs a “poster child”. For those not aware of the concept, a “poster child” is someone who fits as a perfect example of a bad example. For instance, the poster child for bad parenting is Brittney Spears. Or the poster child for bad moviemaking would be “Heaven’s Gate” (watch it sometime…I dare you to stay awake for the whole four hours). The poster child for fiscal irresponsibility is this current Congress.
But I have a new movement to proclaim. The “Quietness” Movement. This is a movement I want to start where every person seeks some moment of quiet in each day. I believe it would transform society in a week. The poster child for this movement would be Mark Broder. He was picked up two years ago for driving on a Minneapolis freeway while he was practicing his violin. He was steering with his knees and had placed the car on cruise control. Amazingly, he was not able to manipulate his knees quickly enough to miss a flung piece of tire from a truck in front of him.
So why is he the poster child for my Quietness movement? Think about the scene. Who forces themselves to drive and practice violin at the same time if not someone who has laughed at the concept of “enough is enough”? We fill up 24 hours a day right now. If you add something else to the mix, you must remove something of equal time to make room for it. Mr. Broder does not believe in that principle. In a move to justify our overlapping, unquiet lives, we rationalize his behavior as “multi-tasking” – which of course is another word for Diffused Mentality.
Quietness means carving a moment out of the petty pace that flesh is heir to, and spending it on a reflective moment. Not on television. Not on a video game. Certainly not on the Internet. Not even on conversation. None of those things flattens the Alpha Waves of your brain.
This is what your brain’s Alpha waves look like when they are variously engaged:
The top set of waves is what your brain looks like reading; the second set is television, the third set is conversation, the fourth set is when you are emotionally upset and the fifth set is when the mind is quiet.
This is not a problem that modern man alone faced. The ancients also recognized that life could get busy for them. Martin Luther never had to get home for American Idol, but he once remarked “The frantic pace of life makes everything I do as meaningless as a bee flitting from one flower to another, never noticing any of them.”
That is why the Church developed the process of Contemplation. Its purpose was to slow the person down to the point of Complete Quiet. John Michael Talbot in his excellent book, “Come to the Quiet” says this about the supreme goal of the Quietness movement: “To arrive at that moment when we are unmoved by all around us. Then we can move at a spiritual speed that takes our breath away and delivers us into Quiet“.
I am not a mystic by any measurement, so I want to be practical. Most reading this have never really had much quiet in life. How does one begin in this venture? We mistake being quiet for things being quiet around us. That would be a mistake. In our sound-drenched world, we experience floods of noise overlapping on top of us. The secret to inner quiet is not to ignore noise but to get above it. This is similar to what a man does watching his favorite football team play. All other noises (especially those made by his wife and children or the telephone) are drowned out and cannot get in the way of pure gridiron. I am not saying we should do that with football – I just point out that we can do it.
Start simply. Close your eyes. Then let all your senses reach out and record what is going on. Do you hear a child wimpering along the sidewalk outside? Imagine yourself as a child of God and let Him know how you feel inside. Is a noisy crow making a rough symphony on the back deck? Let God know about the many things during your day that have bothered your soul. Pray for each one.
This stage is called by the Desert Fathers “Insensive Praying“. Engaging the senses and forcing them to take us into God’s presence. After doing that for a few minutes, then allow your mind to rest and just be caught up in God’s manifest Presence. You may not be able to hold that moment for more than a few seconds. That is adequate to start. Tomorrow, go a little longer.
I once taught this to a group of cowboys in Cody, Wyoming. One rough and tumble bull-rider assured me he couldn’t do it unless the world were dead silent. So I challenged him and the whole crew to go down to the McDonalds food court in Wal-Mart that afternoon and experience the quiet of God there. They thought I was kidding. But I kept egging them on. Finally, after lunch, seven of them went down there.
The one bull-rider came back that evening a changed man. Though his first few attempts were not successful, he actually experienced the Quieting Presence of God in Wal-Mart…with kids screaming at their mothers!
Come to think of it, perhaps the bull-rider would make a better poster child.