keeping quiet


Silence

KEEPING QUIET

by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go

–––

Every single poem in Extravagaria is rewarding beyond words, beyond time. Pablo seems to be saying that it would be a different feeling, or a different experience to see the world come to a halt, where everything stops, and everyone comes together in strangeness, a sudden moment of inactivity, which the world has not often seen.

I like that — for everything to stop, to stay still, to be quiet, to slow down.

And to think.

About Life.

About Death.

And the bit that happens in-between.

the mutual realisation of a collective stillness


circle

“Silence is not the only aid to the stillness. There is another, and that, ironically, is speech”.

Someone once said, “don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence” and I found that to be truly profound for many reasons. First of all I find that it is feels true and rings right. We don’t always need to speak and this follows on from my previous post that sometimes not all things need to be said.

Collective silence is however quite different to meditation.  Outwardly it may seem similar and even look similar but from the inside of the room where this collective silence is taking place, it is entirely distinct.  Sometimes someone within the collective silence circle may be moved to speak.  And when they do they tend to speak from a deep, unfamiliar place inside them. I think as long as there is no personal agenda or self-regard, then what this person says will go to contribute to the communal stillness.  An insight is unlikely to make a difference to all those listening if it means something only to the person who has said it.

This combination of both silence and speech makes each Quaker meeting unique as I have found.  There are meetings which are completely silence with only the sounds of birds piercing the silence.  These meetings have their own magic for me. And the times when people do speak I feel that there is always something in it for me and I believe for most people in the room.

In a magazine article quoted in Quaker faith and practice, Thomas R. Bodine wrote:

As a meeting ‘gathers’ … there gradually develops a feeling of belonging to a group who are together seeking a sense of the Presence.  The ‘I’ in us beings to feel like ‘we.  At some point – it may be early in the meeting or it may be later, or it may never occur at all – we suddenly feel a sense of unity, a sense of togetherness with one another and with that something outside ourselves…