“Maturing is realizing how many things don’t require your comment,” said Winston Churchill. This might be a hard saying for us today, given that we all love to feel seen and heard by having strings of words alongside avatars underneath articles or pictures on the Internet. And the authors like to have the comments flow; it gives an even more self-inflating sense of being seen in a world where we all feel equal in connected invisibility. I have an avatar and a bio on this site. Am I talking to myself? Of course. Does it go for you too? That’s your discernment.
Because of our constant connection and habits of rapid (and sometimes rabid) info processing, the stillness of mind and heart required to receive reality and speak about it with wisdom is just not in us. If we haven’t lost it, we’re close to losing it. If we hope to achieve some level of the clear sightedness known as wisdom, we’ll have to find silence.
Romano Guardini once said that “the person who talks constantly grows empty, and his emptiness is not only momentary.” Guardini was a man that understood the heart. And he warns us: “Feelings that are always promptly poured out in words are soon exhausted.” Are we not always pouring out words? Is social media not constant talking? Day after day after day after tweet after tweet after post after post. Our words pour out. But are they worth saying? Are we just more and more emptied by these things? As I have accidentally fallen into the title of “blogger”, this is a good question. This is the tempting drug of having a place to be heard. Is what we have to say worth hearing? Or have we not heard enough in silence to be able to speak?
Guardini proposes that only “the word that emerges from silence is substantial and powerful.” Only? Really? What if we believed that? He claims we need to find a silent stillness that is inwardly present even when the outward world is swirling. Only then will we “thrive”. This will require being unplugged, and being alone with thoughts. Doing this regularly will be miserable at first, but Pascal said that is precisely our problem: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Can you sit alone in a quiet room? Can you even go to the bathroom without a phone? “The heart incapable of storing anything, of withdrawing into itself,” Guardini further explains, “cannot thrive.”
I bet, at this very moment, you have 5 minutes to close your computer down and sit in silence. Perhaps at the end of it you will have something substantial to say. But, when the screen comes back on, maybe a new maturity will set in, and you’ll realize how many things don’t need your comment.