My soul spoke to me in a whisper, urgently and alarmingly: “Words, words, do not make too many words. Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it? Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness?”
C.G. Jung – The Red Book [HI 108]
Not only are we unconsciously drawn inward where we are driving down the road and forgetting the journey or engaged in internal dialogues, we can also be unconsciously drawn outward into the world of meaningless externalities. For many, the external world is irresistible. No one seems to notice the grip that this world has on them. People get into their cars and immediately turn on the radio or music. They are sitting on the trains or even walking down the streets looking at their phones or texting. When they get home they mindlessly grab the phone, turn on the television, or get on the computer. Everyone seems to be always plugged-in to something. People are so bombarded with distraction that they hardly even notice that their distraction is suppressing what’s best in them. But the empty expressions on their faces show it so clearly. In the poem Burnt Norton, T.S. Eliot captures this haunting image of our modern world:
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy and no concentration
Men and bits of paper whirled by the cold wind …
Perhaps people need the external noise in order to avoid or escape the internal noise that might come through. I think we all know that behind the internal noise there is really nothing but a deep pool of Silence. What people do not realize, however, is that it is an Eternal pool of Silence. This is a Silence from which we all came. And it longs for us to return and plunge right into it. It is as though this Silence is something that most people cannot bear to think of, much less take the time to go there and consciously experience it. If we can bear to just stop for a moment and actually sit with our need to constantly do something and instead simply allow the energy of need itself to become something tangible, we may discover that this need is actually reflective of Something real in us – perhaps even the only thing that is real in us. Here again we return to the perennial idea that within all of us, there is an eternal ground of Being that continually calls us back to it through even the simplest of our desires.
The Power of Silence
If we can catch ourselves in the act of wanting – to pick up the phone, turn on the television or the music, or feed our bellies when they are not really hungry – and just sit with the energy of the desire itself, we can feel the same energetic pull that I mentioned earlier. Not many people take the time to stop and reflect on just what it is that they are trying to escape from or what need they are really trying to fill. If you care to continue following the hidden pathways of even your simplest desires, you will eventually find yourself in the midst of your innermost desires such as the pursuit of money, power, recognition, or acknowledgement. And if you keep going beyond those you will see that all of it comes from the same place.
People can’t bear to be alone with the utter emptiness within themselves. As a result, they pass off their desires as “simply this” or “simply that.” Men and bits of paper whirled by the cold wind never realizing just what it is that they are missing. If only people knew that emptiness is exactly what we need to experience if we are to discover anything lasting or anything real in ourselves. What lies between our desire and our satisfaction is something so utterly profound that most people cannot stand it for too long. It’s called longing. If we can turn to really face our longing, we will find buried treasure – buried treasure which will fulfill our every desire.