Sunday, January 17, 2010

What? Another One?

Contrary to what I had said in the end of my last post, this will contain neither Colca descriptions nor photographs. This will touch on my retreat, and as the retreat mostly has to do with my mental goings-on, I'm not sure there will be another full post about it. Colca definitely needs its own, though, I think.

While I was on retreat with Brother Larry, Tania, and Alyssa, I had ample time to think. The tranquility that Pueblo Libre, a small village in the province of Ancash (just north of Lima) afforded us was truly premium stuff. Maybe 12 cars passed through the village a day, so we rarely heard car noise, never heard city noise, and the constant loudspeaker of fruit venders did not sound once. I've heard fruit venders shouting about Platanos (bananas and plantains) with their megaphones to make me want to give them a very concrete suggestion as to where they ought to put their platanos.

So there weren't noises to distract nor megaphones to test my fragile charity. Additionally, the scenery is unreal. Just google Caraz if you want a small taste of what I mean. The snow-topped mountains almost looked fake because the snow was just so perfectly shimmering in the sunlight. When there weren't clouds, the sky was a brilliant shade of blue that's deeper than you can get in a more connected setting: there's too much smog and the elevation isn't high enough. Here, the air is crystal clear, the humidity does not irritate, and the sky gets to such a deep cerulean hue that you may think you're approaching the outer layers of the atmosphere. The flowers are lovely, the smell is refreshing, the people are beyond incredible, and while we had our doubts about the house when we first arrived, we concluded that Hermano Hugo knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what he was doing when he recommended that we went there.

So what did I do with this time? I reflected on the questions posed, obviously, but I also had ample time to go on my own reflective adventures.

The craziest one: contemplating silence. What is silence? Is it the absence of noise? We use it that way, but what other connotation is there? One definition involves stillness. When I think of stillness, I don't think of just things being immobile or in suspended animation or paused. There is a peace and a tranquility that I associate with the word that I lose when I make it synonymous with "muteness."

As I wondered about this, I realized what a lack of silence there is in my life. I fill it with music, I fill it with thought, I fll it with conversations and seeking others, and none of these things are bad in and of themselves, but one can add too much to the pot. I used to get mad when priests would talk about Ipods and cell phones and email and facebook and goodness knows what other newfangled things young people (22 and already feeling old) use. There was a part of me that thought, "Gosh, stop harping on it!" I don't think that the priests actually talked about them all that much, but the fact that the theme was always the same probably irked me, because one of my flaws is that if I feel that I sufficiently know something, I don't want to be retold or treated as if I knew nothing on the subject. I'm quiet about it (usually), but I'm fairly arrogant and hate having what I think I know to be true challenged.

Anyway, silence. Really, back in the states, could I have gone a week without texting somebody? Calling people? Checking my messages? Doing compulsive email checks? I know I certainly did not immediately equate being alone as a desirable thing; perhaps others considered the situation in a similar way. Is it that I don't like to be alone? Is it that I feel like I'm somehow less of a person if I'm not intentionally doing something more active? Am I afraid of silence?

Why would I be afraid of silence? Possibly because when silence arrives, it grows. It can be peaceful, but when people go and go and go and go and suddenly come to a halt, and every excuse they have given for every little thing falls silent, when a million protests and rationalizations and qualms and explanations and justifications lose their voice, silence plays tyrant. People talk about justice being blind. I think that truth might be silent. Enough time in silence, the truth wells up and becomes indomitable, unignorable, insistent. It's amazing and humbling to all of a sudden realize, "Oh. Duh." It's painful to face a next step that involves sacrifice or putting oneself on the line or taking control of one's fears. It's disconcerting to see how every defense one might make crumbles like sand castles when the truth stares one in the face.

With silence, with ears to listen and eyes to see, a heart open to being filled, many of the modern-day complications we make for ourselves can dissolve. Of course, that requires silence. I had a taste of it. And I want more.

So my resolutions this New Year: Cultivate silence and work on praying rather than just thinking. I'd also like a 6-pack, but that falls a little bit more under the "vanity" category.

Of course, after saying I want to pray more than think, I spent a good 30 minutes today figuring out a syllogistic apology to "It is in giving that we receive" and its connection to the Communion of Saints and "Whosoever seeks to save his life shall lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall save it," and "I live no longer I, but Christ in me." Me? Cerebral? What?

Oh, and the apology makes no sense. Not that any of us were surprised. I think that is all that I've got. I'm going to go for a run and work on repairing the elevator that runs between my head and my heart. Pax, all.

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