Quiet People

Stop. Listen. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I don’t want to tell you anything. I just want you to listen.

Let me explain. Most Sunday mornings, Carey and I pack the kids up and head to Quaker Meeting. We enter the building in silence, quietly greet a few people, and enter the Worship Room to sit for an hour in near-total silence.

Charlotte Friends

The silence in a Quaker Meetinghouse is akin to what other Christians might call prayer. Only, we’re not exactly talking to God. It’s funny, when you think about it, this notion of talking to God–as though somehow we might think of something to say to God that God does not already know. As though God, whatever or whoever God is, doesn’t already know our hearts.

Quakers have this idea that it might actually make sense, instead of trying to tell God things with our noisy noisy minds, to try listening to God. God is, after all, the one with all the intel. So that is what we do. We sit for an hour in “expectant waiting,” listening for the “still small voice” of God.

I mean, we try. Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about work or money or that hole in my cargo pants I just noticed. Sometimes I can’t stop falling asleep.

But sometimes. Sometimes I slip into a deeply quiet state and for one or two or maybe even three shining moments, everything is so, so very clear. I realize the light I’ve been waiting for to shine into my life is already here, all around me, or I see that there is nothing to fear for help will always come, or I know that my work as a mother is the most important work any person can do. In that one shining instant, I don’t just know it, I know it.

I grew up not really understanding the whole “Holy Spirit” thing. Who are we kidding–I still don’t understand it. But I think I know what Holy Spirit feels like. Holy Spirit feels like the best possible kind of knowing.

Call it God, call it spirit, call it the material brain creating illusions of meaning. Call it what you will, but whatever it is, I’ve never duplicated the experience of silence by any other method.

So that’s why I want you to stop reading this and shut up and listen for a minute. Or an hour. See if you can hear a still, small voice.

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

**

“Quiet people have the loudest minds.” -Stephen King

This is the third in an impromptu series in which I use one of these fearless writer quotes as a writing prompt. The first two were: If People Wanted You to Write Warmly About Them and Love Stories

That Magic Moment When You Say, “Well, This Sucks”

I had it all figured out yesterday. I was just going to follow them around with a pen, right? Oh. My gosh. No. Worst writing session ever.

I kept jumping from one person’s head to another, listening to them think and talk, then adding a character back in that  I had taken out, and then taking her out again, and ending up with a jumbled mess of 610 paltry words that don’t even make sense. And all through it, trying desperately not to be maudlin. Maudlin!

Cut that scene. Here’s a video of Stephen King talking to writers.

Highlight: “There’s a magic moment, where you put down some book and you say, this really sucks. I can do better than this.” That book, the one that sucks? Will probably be mine.