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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Scared of the sacred silence, and red wine

I'm writing several things, but there's time for listening and time for silence. Here are two things that have just come to me on this.

  The first is about what might be called sacred space.

  'Sacred' has an amusing connotation for Tracey and me, because in reading essays on this topic for Religions 101, I'd find that students often reversed the keys when typing, and 'sacred' became 'scared'. In an essay intended to be serious, this could have some peculiar results in terms of meaning. We often joked about what was 'scared', especially when one of the cabernets were used to drink was 'Sacred Hill'.

  'Would you like a Scared Hill?' she might ask me.

  We often had a Scared Hill.

  But to be serious now.
Interruption-free space is sacred. Yet, in the digital era we live in, we are losing hold of the few sacred spaces that remain untouched by email, the internet, people, and other forms of distraction. Our cars now have mobile phone integration and a thousand satellite radio stations. When walking from one place to another, we have our devices streaming data from dozens of sources. Even at our bedside, we now have our iPads with heaps of digital apps and the world's information at our fingertips.
It's not always like this, even though many of us have lost the notion of sacred space for ourselves.
In Africa listening is a guiding principle. It's a principle that's been lost in the constant chatter of the Western world, where no one seems to have the time or even the desire to listen to anyone else. From my own experience, I've noticed how much faster I have to answer a question during a TV interview than I did 10, maybe even 5, years ago. It's as if we have completely lost the ability to listen. We talk and talk, and we end up frightened by silence, the refuge of those who are at a loss for an answer.

  In other words, the last line of this underlines the fact that sometimes we are scared of the sacred silences in life. Remember those uncomfortable pauses in conversations at a dinner party when, for no apparent reason, there is silence; an empty space that we desperately feel needs to be filled with words?

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