Monday, January 30, 2012

Suffering and Silence, Sometimes

I recently finished reading a beautiful book called The Art of Hearing Heartbeats in which a woman who cannot walk falls in love with a man who cannot see.  The two create a truly symbiotic relationship - he carries her on his back and she leads him by describing the path into his ear.  But beyond this practical arrangement they find a deeper connection.  Living in a village in rural Burma, they are each unable to take life at the pace of an able-bodied individual.  Without eyes to guide him, he must listen, listen deeply, to all that is around.  Without feet to take her, she must wait, wait deeply, for nearly everything she wants or needs. 

Each finds a kindred spirit in the other because each drinks from the same pool of wisdom that is available to those who dive into the depths of experience; who live life below the surface level of things to do, beyond the constant barrage of images and input.

I love so many things about this book, but this aspect stands out to me.  I am so often hurried, so often distracted by tasks and busyness; so prone to fill silence with noise, to replace quiet with words. But there have been times when I have spent an hour watching a snail walk across the sidewalk, or sat silently in a forest glade waiting for the very earliest signs of spring.  I have looked out my suburban window at a tree waving in the wind and learned things that you cannot find in books. 

It is rare that we take the opportunity to slow down and learn without words.  The characters in my book had no choice.  The wisdom and beauty they encountered was lost on a world that saw them with pity, that assumed their difference meant they had less and not more. 

As I ponder this, I consider my children.  Into each day I carve out times of silence, spaces where they can hear the song of Creation and the voice of Wisdom. But this blind boy and lame girl gently show me more than simply that, and this is the most challenging of lessons for me: that often what is most beautiful comes in our lives from that which is most painful.  As I pray for my children I find that I ask again and again that they will be people of wisdom, faith, and compassion.  But I know that these qualities come when we are refined, and on reflection I tremble at what I am asking for.  I want for my children and myself the beauty these two characters found, but who would willingly ask for such a trade off?  Sometimes the pain of life is refining; other times, it can be consuming. 

Just before this book I read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating - a memoir of a woman who encountered a devastating virus that left her bed ridden for a decade.  During this time she had the silence to slow down and listen to the Song, to dive into the Depths.  She, too, came through suffering with deeper wisdom. 

Once again I am reminded that we don't always get what we want, but sometimes this is exactly what we need; though this is a lesson much more easily learned in theory than in practice. Life does include suffering and it is my prayer that we will use these inevitable seasons to grow in our spirits a pearl of beauty.

As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of these books. All opinions are my own. If you'd like to read the responses of other members to the book, head over on February 1st.


Janin said...

Your post is so thoughtful! Thank you for sharing this. It reminds me that when I wish on a star, I always have one of two wishes, either a simple "Thank you" out to the universe when I am at peace, or, "Everything we need and some of what we want" when there are worries on my heart.

Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

Thanks for the reminder to carve out time for silence, both for me and my kids!

Bren said...

Yes, carving out thoughtful, meditative time is amazingly difficult in our fast paced world. Thanks for the great reminder!

Taylor said...

I love your post!! I am also working on carving out more quiet, more simplicity, more togetherness...just more of less.

Anonymous said...

Hi Catherine,
many thanks for your kind words about my book "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats".
I am so happy you liked it and it inspired you to your thoughtful post.
Jan-Philipp Sendker

Marlene said...

There is so much truth and beauty in your thought "this is the most challenging of lessons for me: that often what is most beautiful comes in our lives from that which is most painful." Love this!

Lisa Hanneman said...

I never appreciated sitting in silence until children and the noise they bring with them came into my life. It's wonderful noise, but sometimes the escape is necessary. Now I understand why my mom would insist on driving with the radio off sometimes...