After the earthquake, there was a fire. But God wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet.
-1 Kings 19:12
In 2005, a small red stone was placed in the Hoh Rainforest to mark One Square Inch of Silence. Standing there is perhaps the only place in the United States where one can be completely out of reach of human noise (jet engines, machinery, etc.). A team of people continue to advocate for and defend that One Square Inch from encroaching human noise. Usually, I quote this 1 Kings verse in the NRSV, “After the fire, there was a sound of sheer silence.” Is it silence or sound? There’s a stickiness and nonsense-ness in these three Hebrew words (qol demamah daqah) which, separately, imply both sound and silence. No wonder translations vary. George Hempton, sound recording specialist and founder of One Square Inch, writes, “Silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything.” Resilience comes in being present with everything and not needing to control or sort it. Resilience comes in being present. Silence carries its own sound, a humble and important sound, that roots and guides us. Another way to translate this verse is “After the fire, there was a thin, whispering tune.” When we are present to it, that thin, whispering tune will lead and settle our anxiousness.
Takeaway: Most likely, you’re reading this from somewhere not-in-hiking-distance to the One Square Inch of Silence. Wherever you are, take five square minutes to be present today. Five if you’re inside; if you go outside, take two square minutes (it’s still right about freezing with rain expected where I’m writing). Set a timer if it helps. Be present with silence. Listen to what else arises and is present when you are not trying to fill the silence with your tasks. Be present to the silence without controlling, sorting, organizing it.
Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflecting on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).
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