About the Author
John Lane is a painter, author and educator. He was Chairman of the Dartington Hall Trust, founding director of the Beaford Arts Centre, and instrumental in the creation of Schumacher College. His books include The Living Tree: Art and the Sacred, A Snake's Tail Full of Ants: Art, Ecology and Consciousness, Timeless Simplicity: Creative Living in a Consumer Society and Timeless Beauty in the Arts & Everyday Life (all published by Green Books).
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From the Introduction
The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply: Create silence! Bring men to silence! SØREN KIERKEGAARD
Elected Silence, sing to me And beat upon my whorlèd ear, Pipe me to pastures still and be The music that I care to hear. GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS
Silence is nothing merely negative; it is not the mere absence of speech. It is a positive, a complete world in itself. Silence has greatness simply because it is. It is, and that is its greatness, its pure existence. There is no beginning to silence and no end: it seems to have its origins in the time when everything was still pure Being. It is like uncreated, everlasting Being. When silence is present, it is as though nothing but silence had ever existed. . . . It is the only basic phenomenon that is always at mans disposal. . . No other basic phenomenon is so present in every moment as silence. MAX PICARD
Silence touches us in many different ways: as something which offers sanctuary and tranquillity, as something which brings us into touch with the inner depths which elude us in the hurly-burly of our everyday lives, as a source of joy, as as an inspiration for art, literature or music, and because it awakens us to the present moment which can only be fully experienced with a mind that is free of preconceptions. These encounters can be the source of a wonderful clarity.
"No man will ever unfold the capacities of his own intellect who does not at least checker his life with solitude," wrote Thomas De Quincy; but solitude is more than intellect. It is a therapeutic support, an anchor to reality. It is the source of imagination, vision and philosophic insight. The many poets, artists, philosophers and inventors who spent the greater part of their lives alone and in silence are countless. There are Newton, Pascal and Wittgenstein. There are Monteverdi, Bach, and our contemporaries, Sofia Gubaidulina and Arvo Pärtwho is composing music, according to one commentator, which is "the most beautiful sound next to silence". It is also true of the Buddha meditating on the banks of the Nairanjana river, Jesus in the wilderness, the Prophet Mohammed in the cave of Mount Hera, Lao-Tse in the mountains of China, and all the European mysticsJulian of Norwich, St Bernard of Clairvaux, Meister Eckhart, St Francis of
Assisi, amongst others. It is no less true of certain European painters-Piero della Francesca, Vermeer, Corot, Caspar David Friedrich and Morandiwhose work is imbued with the profoundest silence. No less is true of the creators of the interior spiritual beauty of the Orthodox icon which reflects the glory and beauty of God and His saints. The poet Coleridge said that deep feeling was only possible with deep thought, and Id add: great silence.