How silently, how silently

Silence, The Pool of, by Margaret Macdonald, 1913When New Year’s Eve becomes New Year’s Day and 2015 becoms 2016, while others are uncorking bottles of champaigne or watching fireworks and singing “Auld Lang Syne,” something else will happen that I hope not to miss. In years past I’ve partied a bit at that moment, sometimes at a First Night celebration, or (more likely) I’ve gone to bed early and slept through it. This year I want to stay awake for it, really awake, no matter when it happens, the kind of awake Jesus meant when he said, “keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn . . .” (Mark 13:35).

Trouble is, I don’t know what to expect: a slight spectrum shift in the light of a single star? a ripple in Earth’s magnetic field? a momentary tonal shift in the music of the spheres? More likely it will be nothing at all that my poor senses can catch. But as I tip from one year into another, I want to listen as Kierkegaard described listening when he wrote about prayer.

As my prayer became more attentive and inward
I had less and less to say.
I finally became completely silent.
I started to listen
– which is even further removed from speaking.
I first thought that praying entailed speaking.
I then learnt that praying is hearing,
not merely being silent.
This is how it is.
To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking,
Prayer involves becoming silent,
And being silent,
And waiting until God is heard.

—Søren Kierkegaard, quoted by Joachim Berendt in The Third Ear, translated by Tim Nevill (Shaftsbury, England: Element Books, 1988).

I hope to God that somewhere within I can find the knack for it.

Art Credit: Margaret Macdonald, “The Pool of Silence,” 1913, National Gallery of Canada

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