Friday, December 9, 2016

shut up

A little silence never hurt anyone and so, as an early Christmas present, it might be nice to take a moment and just shut up. I don't mean some new and improved and goopy activity: I mean personally, in a time when no one is looking ... when, in fact, even you aren't looking and chewing and digesting and protesting and extolling and relaxing and improving. Just shut up. Literally. For a literal minute. Shut ... up.

I don't know about you, but for me, these are times that feel like a case of national rug burn. Volume has replaced veracity and, even when I am not discussing or dismissing the arguments of others, still there is a sense of discomfort in my mind. Common decency dwindles as the president-elect issues some new round-house edict that lacks supporting evidence. The delight of one persuasion is dependent on the discomfort of another. The ills are real enough, but the raucous anger seems to find no rest or reprieve.

My friend Dave sent me an email: "I don’t get it.  The state of being angry is almost considered a badge of honor by many – an emotion one should aspire to. But when I was growing up, I was taught that anger (though we all experience it times) is a negative emotion and that angry people were not to be admired or emulated."

Everything is for sale. Honor goes begging. Is this my country? Is it yours? Discussions that begin as sharing and caring and all the other nice words shudder and slump into something akin to my-sorrow-is-more-sorrowful-than-yours. Or, alternatively, my-joy-is-more-joyful-than-yours. Words like "Marxist" or "socialist" are hurled, yet there is little evidence that anyone might be willing to investigate their actual meanings. And the volume increases, even when there is no one there to listen. Even when there is no one listening, still I am forced to listen to myself.  

In general, I dislike relying on the words of others as a means of expressing my opinion. But today, I will borrow the words of Max Ehrmann's 1927 "Desiderata," which encourage a politer form of my sense that shutting up and letting the silence have its say is a good idea. Anything -- anything at all -- can happen in the silence.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

One minute.

Shut up.

What's that like?


  1. I try to shut up every chance i get, just to stay out of trouble.

  2. Just came back from a long day at the monastery, and while defecating such a koan - which I thought I addressed before - came back: Why do girls wear clothes?

    1. Koan: Why do girls wear clothes?

      Answer: When young females eat salad and chat non stop, they are behaving in in accordance with the Great Tao.