I don't think I would have made a good Trappist monk. All that silence. Now I might have enjoyed the singing at the innumerable 'offices', but otherwise, I don't think so.
On the other hand I have been to a couple of Quaker services, and I quite enjoyed them. It was very calm. Occasionally someone would rise to their feet and speak, and at some apparently random moment the service ended and everyone left. I don't think we socialized.
I love the social aspects of life, the talking, the joshing, the camaraderie, but I know I also need time of quiet. We all need it, yet, as a society we are often afraid of it. Silence can feel uncomfortable. We want to fill it. And we do, though often it is done for us with the muzak of the Mall or the restaurant.
Perhaps the noise and pace of modern urban life is the problem. It demands action. It needs to be filled. Is that one reason why Smart phones are so prevalent in our lives? We are always in touch. When do we let go? I admit that recently I acquired one, and I always have it with me. I love it. Am I afraid I will miss out on a vital part of life? Does it betray some hidden insecurity?
But I also relish the times I sit on our back patio, with the trees close by gently rustling, the birds singing, and only the distant murmurs of civilization infringing on the peace. Mark you I probably have my phone with me.
As a teenager wrought by the normal agonies of that age, I loved to wander in the wildness of the Yorkshire moors. It felt almost as far as was possible from daily life. The calming tones of wind, and wafting scents of heather were healing. And, of course, I had no phone.
What happens when we are surrounded by calm and quiet. I believe that is when we listen and think most clearly, most perceptively.
So do we listen and think in our services? I am often inspired by the music I sing and the words I hear from the liturgy or preaching. Then what do I do with all this inspiration? That is when I need a moment to ponder and listen beyond myself. I need those moments of calm reflection. I can sometimes find them in that magical moment between the bread and the wine. I can find it in moments of silent prayer.
If we believe that we need to hear God, then presumably we must listen. How we do so varies from person to person and circumstance to circumstance. I just wonder if we use the gift of silence enough, if our modern world has so devalued it that we miss much of what we are being called to be and do.