“There is much help in Silence. From it`s touch we gain renewed life…..From contact with it we rise healed of our hurts and strengthened for the fight….Silence gives us peace and hope. Silence teaches us no creed, only that God`s arms are around the universe. How small and unimportant seem all our fretful troubles and ambitions when we stand with them in our hands before the great calm face of Silence! Silence teaches us how little we are – how great we are….In the world`s market – places we are….mere atoms of a mighty machine – mere insects in a vast hive….It is only in Silence that it comes home to us that we are something much greater than this – with all the universe and all eternity before us. It is in Silence that we hear the voice of Truth….In Silence falsehood cannot live. You cannot float a lie on Silence. A lie has to be puffed aloft and kept from falling by men`s breath. Leave a lie on the bosom of Silence and it sinks….
Silence is the only real thing we can lay hold of in this world of passing dreams. Time is a shadow that will vanish with the twilight of humanity; but Silence is a part of the eternal. All things that are true and lasting have been taught to men`s heart`s by Silence.
Among all nations there should be vast temples raised where the people might worship Silence and listen to it, for it is the voice of God.”
~~ Jerome K. Jerome, The Diary of Pilgrimage (1891) ~~
Jerome K. Jerome`s humourist philosophy is apparent in his legendary Three Men in a Boat, but he also had a deeper, more personal humanist philosophy which percolates to the surface in his Diary of a Pilgrimage written in 1891, which opens the curtains on his meditative thought processes.
I accept that it can be difficult for non-Quakers to wrap their heads round what it is that makes us tick: Peace, Simplicity, Equality and Truth at all times are the principles that drive the life of a Quaker forwards and give it meaning; and Silence is fundamental for a Quaker. For in Silence you find God: but people are afraid of Silence; they must be surrounded by noise, hustle and bustle – something, anything must be near – it`s an emotional comfort blanket which cannot be done without; but it can. Silence allows you to empty the mind of all the endless chatter of that restless monkey sitting on your shoulder, centre down and hear the word of God which had been drowned by the consumerist detritus and jibber-jabber which fills our spiritual void.
Jerome K. Jerome wasn`t a Quaker, but unwittingly he comes as close as anything I know to explaining the importance of Silence in Quaker worship: there is no creed or forcing one upon others; the self is recognized, but not at the expense of others; Truth is spoken at all times because God is Truth; all are equal without exception; and a life of simplicity, respect and compassion for others. All of this is self evident in the above passage by Jerome: humanity should show genuine humanity to those that struggle to live whether through poverty, war, illness or because they are too weak to defend and help themselves. We should leave the human hive mentality with it`s passing fashions and peer pressure and discover a more humanist, compassionate way of living: it would do no harm to sit down for ten minutes Silence every day and contemplate what it truly is to be human, and how we can help others less fortunate than ourselves. That is the Quaker way…………..To Speak Truth To Power and hang the consequences.