If the title of this blog post made you think of the African American spiritual, click here. If it reminded you of the Paul McCartney and Wings classic, click here. And if I’m an idiot for wasting your time with this stuff, click here.
Now, on to Lent.
My practice of spending 10-15 minutes a day in intentional silence has begun swimmingly enough, which is really to say I have not missed any of Lent’s three days. God must be overwhelmed by my heroic efforts.
So far, I have done all my meditations in my bedroom. I live on the first floor of a beautiful house in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. The building is more than 100 years old and has many fine qualities. Thick, sound-proof walls is not one of them.
A few minutes into my Ash Wednesday meditation, as I sat cross-legged on my bed and wondered when my 10 minutes would be up, I was startled by a noise next door. It was the unmistakable sound of someone using unnecessary strength to pound on a door.
“STEVE!” a voice bellowed. “HEY, STEVE!”
‘Hey back at you, jackass,’ I thought. ‘Why don’t you give Steve a second? I doubt he’s parked by the front door waiting for you to come a-calling.’
Somebody yelling for Steve might have amused me in other circumstances, but not now. Didn’t Loudmouth Lou know I was trying to get in touch with my inner solitude ? Couldn’t Shouty Shane be a little more considerate toward anyone seeking the peaceful hum of dead air? I was annoyed!
But then I remembered a parable I once read in a book, probably by the Buddhist monk/author Thich Nhat Hanh or Jesuit Anthony de Mello. I forget most of the details, but the story was of a cantankerous old woman seeking enlightenment by praying endlessly in her home. She toiled away, day after day, year after year, with furrowed brow, following the letter of the law to a T but not getting the sort of thing one would desire out of the experience.
One day, someone began to knock at her door while she was committing to her practice. Grumbling to herself, she ignored the visitor. But he continued to slap her front door. Finally, she sprang to her feet, rushed to the door and yanked it open.
“Can’t you see I’m trying to talk to God here?” she asked with rage.
“Oh yes,” said the visitor with some amusement. “I thought I’d give God a break.”
As I indicated, I can’t remember exactly what point the author was trying to make. But as I recalled the anecdote during my own attempt to commune with a higher power, I realized curbing my irritation toward Steve and his friend would probably get me closer to my intended goal than achieving total silence in my surroundings.