Silence in the Trees

Tonight, reading David Abram’s musings on the language of our embodied selves and this thickly expressive world in which we live, I wonder about the internet.

As my friend Cat has taught me, the Quakers have a saying: “This Friend speaks to my condition.”

The Quaker Meeting is one of silence and unfolding into Spirit. When a Friend speaks in Meeting, it is with Spirit moving through them. The breath is Spirit in the flesh, and when it stirs, the Friend opens and allows the music of Spirit (the Song of the World, as we Druids call it) to rise up and overflow. When David Abram writes about his friend who listens to the dialects of trees, the pine and spruce and hemlock, each rustling in the breeze — I think of the Quakers. How lucky we are to choose when to speak, when to be silent, to have that control. And how lucky the trees are, to speak only when the breeze moves them, only when the winds exhale in a community of breath and weather to make a song out of the forest — and to otherwise be silent, and still. To not fill up their world with frivolous noise.

I have been thinking a lot lately about rituals of silence, how they connect us to the voiceless, how they open us to the possibility of justice through attending.

And I have been thinking about the internet, and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, where so much of the noise is the noise of passing on, forwarding, “liking” and “sharing” — but not with our own voices.

Some essays make us think. Some poetry gives us pause. Some writing slows us down and makes us wonder, contemplate, and we are stilled for a moment from our need to speak and fill that silence.

Other articles make us jump up and say, “Yes! This!” We pass on those articles that articulate our beliefs, that do our speaking and our arguing, that make our points and push our objective. We do not have time. We are busy people. And there is so much injustice in the world, so much that needs to be corrected, that needs to be said. When we find an article that seems sharp and smart, scathing or insightful or deeply necessary, we pass it on. We beg the world to stop for just a moment to read it, to consider its ideas. We do not have time to be forever saying everything. So we say instead, over and over, as much as we can, “This Friend speaks to my condition!”

I sometimes feel frustrated that my articles are rarely those that go viral. I try to write from a place of quiet and complexity, I try to hold the ambivalence that I feel and allow it to move and turn so that I can see its many sides. I’m not always trying to make some point — I’m just trying to let the wind rise up and make its noise in me.

But maybe, in my own self-conscious frustration, I can’t always see the forest for the trees. We are all so busy, we all have so much to say. Maybe we are much like the trees these days, at the mercy of whatever the wind will bring us — whatever drifts to us through the Facebook feed, filtered through our outstretched fingers, trying to catch and shape and turn this stream of chatter into something that means something. We rustle and shake, just a few brief seconds to say what we can before the current’s moved on and we lapse again into silence.

So maybe what I can give with my writing is silence, a few moments of pause, and for once, the relief that there is nothing more to say… only the mystery and the quiet and the dark between.

Alison Leigh Lilly
Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

1 Comment

  1. Andrea
    Feb 6, 2016

    I love reading your articles. They definitely get me to slow down and think rather than mindlessly scrolling, waiting for Facebook to become entertaining. Sometimes it is too easy to slip into mindlessness and wander through the day on autopilot.

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