BRIAN — DAY 1: Time to Shut Up

40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

The Lenten candle, on fire and in action.
The Lenten candle, on fire and in action.

Ah, Lent. At no time of year is the discrepancy between my ambition and ability more evident.

In years past, I have generally seen Lent as an opportunity to accomplish personal goals and address shortcomings. Tired of eating so much chocolate? Give it up for Lent. Want to write an epic one-man musical about the life of Theodore Roosevelt? Set up a strict schedule, and do it for Lent.

In years when I was feeling particularly industrious, I even came up with two or  three Lenten practices! Inevitably, I failed and probably did so for a number of reasons. Some of my Lenten ideas were dumb, e.g. the Teddy Roosevelt musical. Others were overly-zealous, e.g. the Teddy Roosevelt musical. Others had nothing to do with the real meaning of Lent, e.g. the Teddy Roosevelt musical and virtually all the rest.

What is the real meaning of Lent, then?

I suspect it is largely about conscientiously examining our spiritual and everyday lives and exploring behaviors we might adopt or turn from that will ultimately bring us closer to God.

This is not to say my past Lenten goals could not have feasibly led to this end. This year, however, I am trying to keep that objective at the forefront of my mind. This begs the question: what is my spiritual life calling from me at this given moment?

Silence. The answer to which I continually return is silence. A period of the day to quietly sit, say and do nothing.

I am usually part of the chorus of voices ironically bemoaning society’s disdain for silence by shouting about it. We shake our heads and pine for days in which we were not so busy, so addicted to being endlessly entertained.

Instead of complaining, I would like to actually do something about it. I cannot think of a better solution than closing my mouth and doing nothing about it.

I do not think praying more should mean saying more . When advising his disciples how to communicate with God, Jesus specifically encouraged them not to “babble.”

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him,” he continued. He generously chose not to add, “Duh” when explaining how an all-knowing, omnipresent being works.

There is no grand epiphany that led me to this Lenten practice, and the plan is pretty simple. Each day, I will light a candle and close my eyes and mouth for 10-15 minutes. Unless I catch a cold. Then I can open my mouth.

During that time, I hope to demonstrate some control over my thoughts, or in other words, to reform my mind from its petulant-child-overwhelmed-by-the-number-of-aisles-in-the-supermarket ways. Perhaps I will focus on my breathing. Maybe I will try to hold a single idea without jumping to another. If nothing else, I will have a nice, refreshing break each day.

It is of course somewhat paradoxical that I will be talking about silence on a blog throughout Lent. All I can say is I am not a Trappist. I am not giving up communication for Lent. Just talking. For 10-15 minutes a day. Somehow, putting my thoughts into words as opposed to unfiltered speech feels like a step in the right direction.

So here we go. Happy Lent, everyone.