Turning down the volume

March 15, 2011

The
urge for Lent started for me several weeks ago. I was out on a cross-country
ski with a friend when a small herd of elk ran in front of our path, kicking up
a cloud of snow. They were so close that we could see their breath as they
passed. When they reached the crest of a small hill, they turned collectively
toward us and paused for a moment before running on.

The
moment was extraordinary, but what stayed with me was how noisy I was. When we
saw the elk, instead of standing in struck silence, I started babbling, "Oh
wow. Oh wow. This never happens here. Wow." Finally, my friend--she says she
doesn't remember doing this--said, "Shhh...."

I
returned home with that "Shhh" heavy in my consciousness. It was clear that I
need more of it. My Lenten project is to offer it to myself in various forms.

For
one, I am turning off the radio--not permanently, and not because the radio is
a bad thing. But during Lent, I want to connect myself to that greater quiet
that surrounds me all the time, and this is one obvious place where I can find
a little pocket of silence in my day. More subtle, but still important, is the "noise"
of the Internet. It isn't an audible sound, and I do use the Internet for work.
But I also use it to turn up the volume in my life, to introduce noise and clutter
where they needn't be any.

What
will I hear when I turn down the volume on my life? I don't know, and pretty
often during these first few days, I find myself not really wanting to find
out. But I have six weeks to practice what Richard Rohr calls living myself
into a new way of thinking. "Let's allow ourselves this Lent," Rohr says, "to
seek new life settings for ourselves, much more than new ideas to discuss and
shelve." What I hope is to find a new life setting that will allow me to appreciate
an encounter with elk in their great silence, even as I connect to my own
deepest, quietest place.

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