Good afternoon dear reader & welcome to my world for another week. Following on from last week & my comments on radical changes we typically face today, I read a fascinating story this week about a chap called John Francis. John did not speak for seventeen years. The problem was not with his voice but with his soul.
As he explained, "I used words to hide from people, & from myself. . . I decided not to speak for one day, as a kind of gift to my community. My girlfriend thought I was doing a nice thing. When I woke the next day, I did not see any reason to speak, so I didn't."
Over the coming years, Francis earned a bachelors, masters, & PhD in environmental study degrees. During this time, he recalls, "I liked not speaking. It gave me peace."
Seventeen years later, he began talking again when he felt he had something to say. However, he notes, "I still practice being silent every morning, & sometimes don't speak for several days at a time. It reminds me to listen properly; not to judge what I think I am hearing, but to try to understand what people are really saying."
Most of us cannot abstain completely from talking, but we clearly need to do something about the information overload of our day. A study conducted eight years ago determined the average person consumes 100,000 words every day. Since then, social media has added another 54,000 words a day. Experts in the field refer to our condition as "infobesity." 1
In our own journey, I suspect we see media outlets producing so many words only because we are willing to consume them. And, we consume them because we feel empowered by the myth of knowing the news, with a perception perhaps one becomes stronger & more confident, especially in controlling our lives, & this gives us control over our own little part of the world.
These further stories also caught my eye this week: A US military plane crashed yesterday afternoon into a field in Mississippi, killing at least sixteen people aboard. An American soldier has been arrested in Hawaii & charged with trying to support ISIS, & more than 6,000 firefighters are battling wildfires in California. None of these stories affect me personally, but I read them nonetheless.
It is a good thing to follow the news if we use what we learn for productive reasons. But consuming media without a purpose, which I sometimes think many of us do, can distract our souls. Silence is vital sometimes. It is also essential to healthy relationships with each other, I enjoyed the following quote: "If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly & shame" (Proverbs 18:13).
Mother Teresa once noted, "We need to find God, & he cannot be found in noise & restlessness. God is the friend of silence." Francois Fenelon observed, "How rare it is to find a soul quiet enough to hear… How quiet is your soul today my friends?
Thank you for taking the time to be with me once again. I hope my journey may encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson, with my best wishes for success & results in the week ahead. Please take care out there. I look forward to being with you all again next weekend.
1 Inspired by Dr Jim Denison, Ph.D., who speaks & writes on cultural & contemporary issues. He produces a daily column distributed to more than 113,000 subscribers in 203 countries, including myself. He also writes for The Dallas Morning News, Common Call, & other publications.