Silence is golden, they say. There’s little golden living on Gratiot Avenue. Sometime around three a.m. quiet descends upon the neighborhood for an hour or two, a blest time when I find it ideal to make my morning meditations. Once the day gets rolling there’s the constant hum of traffic noise, arising at times to quite a high pitch. Most of the day then is given to unremitting racket from the street–not a good condition for a spiritual life. The works man has made–the machine, the electric light, the technological paraphernalia–contribute to our restlessness and worry, keeping us ever on the edge. Of course, nature also has its sounds. It is not silent, but its sounds are melodious, not cacophonous. My favorite is the sound of the rain, but there is also the breeze, birds and crickets. Rarely do these sounds disturb–only when God wants me to take notice: a thundering storm, at whose peak we may lose power for a time, and then we are compelled to take notice. The manmade noises come to a halt.
I look for and long for the quiet that I find so sparingly here. When I am able to talk to God in the quiet moments of the night and in the dark I am at peace. That sacred time readjusts soul and body Godwardly, and I am better able to face the disturbances that inevitably come with the day.
The works of God–nature–are harmonious to man, even though they can be intrusive at times. The artificial things man has made bring unrest mentally and physically and a distraction of mind from the spiritual things that ought always to be lodged in the best part of our souls. Since we were not made to accommodate too much of the intrusive commotion that we do make, we’re not living well, not as we were intended to be on this earth. I’d say that the result of these many forms of artificial surroundings must mean that our happiness must be diminished. Surely, happiness comes not from any one thing, and misery can be felt by anyone, even without the contrivances of modern life. But I think that our alienation from God and even from the rhythms of nature itself bring on a harm that is different from other things that have traditionally brought unhappiness to mankind, such as hunger, heat and cold. The sadness of modern life, urged on by the noises of life, creates an existential kind of unhappiness, the feeling of isolation, emptiness, an alienation from our Creator.
It may not be all too reliable for an aging person such as myself to make valid comparison of the present with times gone by since everyone of any time can look back nostalgically on the “good old days.” If my analysis be true, however, I would be saying that things are different in this present time from former times. There’s now a certain absence of contentment and of simplicity in living, with the result that life’s pure joys are hard to come by. Merely to be calm and complacent, passing the time of day: that’s not a common experience any longer. I wonder whether children growing up today are being deprived of that very stabilizing experience which is–seems to me–so important for a young, developing life. If it be true that they are being flung into a dizzying world of sound and other sensual stimulation and consigned to remain in such a world without respite, I fear they are destined to become very unhappy people with the symptoms of mental and spiritual pathology deeply restlessness with unhappiness, spiritual dryness and unbelief. Saint Paul said that we have here no lasting city; our citizenship is in heaven, the home we’re meant to inhabit for eternity. But the good things God made for us to know and experience in this life are meant to make us long for the things of heaven, a kind of hint, a suggestion, of the immensely greater things He has prepared for those who seek and love Him. As I indicated, we’re seeing and tasting less and less of God’s good things but we’re filling up on the pablum and waste products of human making. God is put off; we think not about Him nor do we hope to be with Him.
I try to remain a calm person in this aimless and zany world. I need to do it for the good of my soul. I can’t stop the street noise outside my window but I can turn away from a lot of the other upsetting things that our modern life offer me. Switching off the media, sitting still, refusing the beckoning curiosity to investigate many things, cooling the heat of ambition to be “doing something” when nothing of the kind is called for in my duties: putting aside these and similar things helps dispose me for a better spiritual life and helps temper the lure of sinful attractions.
I write about these things not for me. I already try to live this way. My thoughts turn to you, many of whom by necessity are plunged into a very active and distracting world and thus are compelled to live in a dangerous spiritual environment. How can you be prayerful people? How can you keep your faith and not give up hope for eternal life? How will you even be able to avoid the grave sins that the modern world sets before your eyes and ears all day–and night–long? And, if it’s hard for you to be persevering, how will it be for the upcoming generation? The old saying was that Christians must be in the world but not of the world. Seems now that in order to be unworldly we also need to be at least somewhat apart from world–not from God’s world, but the artificial world of human construction. I want you to be happy people, not so much with grinning faces as with radiant souls, immersed in God’s grace. I think that’s a more extraordinary accomplishment nowadays, reserved only for those who are determined to pull away from much of the junk offerings of modern life. The Lord said, ‘Come to Me and you will find rest.’ You will only find Him when you put off looking for everything else.
P.S. Next Sunday after the noon Mass there will be a dramatized life story of Saint John Vianney performed by the wonder-working Leonardo de Fillippis. This is a real treat for you and I hope you all come out to see and hear this wonderful and inspiring story so expertly portrayed by a very talented man.
Friday, October 02, 2015
Fr. Perrone: reflections on peace and quiet, technology and nature
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, September 27, 2015):