Went out in the darkness with a big white horned moon overhead and made shallow rills and poked holes in the good black dirt so that I could plant coriander seeds, specks of rocket. dots of garlic chives. As I was working out there in my dressing gown and dog-chewed slippers, shivering with cold and blissfully happy, I realised again what makes my life in sobriety so filled with abundance.
We all need silence, that deep sweet stillness found in quiet rooms, a garden at dawn, the depths of the night. And not just external cessation of noise, but silence within, a reprieve from the chattering greedy undecided mind. In active alcoholism, my thoughts were noisy and agitated, busy with justifications and defences and minimalising, noisy with guilt and remorse and what passed for prayers, rattling off pleas and promises and warnings to myself. The restless, irritable and discontented mind on the outs with itself as my life turned to ashes and left a bitter taste within.
Silence is not a luxury but a necessity in our modern lives. When I am able to listen to stillness and calm all around me and let that stillness enter my consciousness, I feel restored and whole again, a woman standing in the Garden of Eden made anew. The intangible benefits of silence fill up my life these days.
And in silence, there is time to reflect and respond rather than react to external pressures and the trivialization and din of our daily life. So I come back to the work of Marylynne Robinson, one of our most thoughtful and critical of novelists and philosophers:
Whoever controls the definition of mind controls the definition of humankind itself.” The more the definition of mind is left to the parascientist – to Dennett and Dawkins and to reductive neurologists such as Steven Pinker and Michael Gazzaniga – the more political, moral and imaginative trouble we are corporately in.
Pushing religion out of the public sphere in the name of rationality, she insists, has had the effect of giving more room to world views that trivialise or demean the “felt life” of the human consciousness – the complexity, the liberty, the innovative capacity (and the self-delusional temptations) of mind as we experience it.
She is not alone in implying that without the transcendent we shall find ourselves unable, sooner or later, to make any sense of the full range of human self-awareness