“Drink in the silence. Seek solitude.
Listen to the silence.
It will teach you. It will build strength
Let others share it with you.
It is little to be found elsewhere.”*
Today is why the future and the past exist.
The past leads us to today – we are not meant to be trapped in the past.
Imagining the future makes for a better today the future is not a place to escape to or be lost in its endless possibilities.
Today is where we find our purpose in life. Ken Mogi’s book on ikigai – the Japanese way to purpose, brings our attention to the small things in life and the here and now when he describes the life of Sei Shōnagon who was serving in the Japanese court around the year 1000 when she wrote The Pillow Book, a collection of essays:
‘Sei Shōnagon does not use grandiose words to describe life. She just pays attention to the small things she encounters in life, understanding instinctively the importance of being in the here and now. Sei Shōnagon also does not talk about herself.’**
In noticing the small things, Sei Shōnagon became present to them, one with them. Paying attention to the small things is the first pillar of ikigai, leading to the second pillar of releasing oneself:
‘Releasing oneself is very much related to being in the here and now.’**
There’s something in this finding our life-purpose that requires what Sherry Turkle names “sacred space.” In describing how we are so wired to our technology, Turkle reflects on Henry David Thoreau’s consideration of “where I live and what I live for”:
‘A sacred space is not a space to hide out. It is a place to recognise ourselves and our commitments.
When Thoreau considered “where I live and what I live for,” he tied together location and values. Where we live doesn’t change how we live; it informs who we become. Most recently, technology promises us lives on the screen. What values, Thoreau would ask, follow from this new location? Immersed in simulation, where do we live, and what do we live for?^
Frances Roberts words, which open this post, encourage us to enter the silence. This for me is not some empty place of emptiness, but a full place of what is fullness.
The question is stimulated, then, whether it is possible to become this silence? (Many of these Thin|Silence posts are not about “This is how it is!” but “What if?”)
“I and this mystery, here I stand.”^^
Walt Whitman reminds me that me and my body – we are one. I do not deaden my senses in silence but bring them to aliveness and to oneness. In the moments of such wonder I too fleetingly have, I have noticed I am not thinking about myself in some separated way. And I get it that this sense of having everything allows us to move from opening our hearts to opening our wills, the threshold we face that lies between fear and courage, or selfishness to selflessness – when I am one with what I must do. This is what I understand to be releasing oneself.
Perhaps another word for this, provided by Charalampos Mainemelis, is “engrossment,” being here, now:
“What we need is “engrossment,” which mobilises one’s entire attention, resources and physical energy toward only one stimulus which is the present-moment activity.”*^
It seems we are “built” for this. Even an analogy from the film world acknowledges that we can’t be everywhere, taking everything in, but we can be somewhere:
‘When we watch a film, what is in the frame is only a selective view of a wider fictional world … the act of framing an action presents the film-maker with a whole range of choices, including what is revealed and what is withheld from the sudience.’^*
If we’re preoccupied with the past, our escaping to the future, then we cannot take hold of the fullness of the present. Both can be held in the present, and we know, when we compress energy, there’ll be an explosion.
(*Frances Roberts, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Ken Mogi’s The Little Book of Ikigai.)
(^From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^^Walt Whitman, quoted in Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(*^Charalampos Mainemelis, quote in Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s The Slow Professor.)
(^*From Charlotte Bosseaux’s Dubbing: Film and Performance.)