You cannot have watched BBC’s News at Ten on Tuesday evening and not have felt both intrigued and a deep sense of compassion for poor Huw Edwards. Due to a technical fault, the BBC anchorman was left without any sound whatsoever and with nothing to do, while millions of viewers watched on as he huffed and puffed through nearly ten minutes of awkward silence.
After the news had finished, Huw tweeted a picture of a can of Welsh ale with the words “I think I’m going to enjoy this little beauty after that Ten. Iechyd da!” [cheers]
Of course, it could be that those few minutes of silence were the best reflection on what’s happening in our world at the moment. Just flicking through the newspaper or online news or watching the TV or listening to the radio will leave you breathless at the struggle, heartache, confusion and sadness that is found in every corner of our world. In an age of twenty-four-hour news, constant soundbites and online commentary, maybe it’s OK to be quiet even for just a few seconds every once in a while. Maybe we could ask the BBC to start with a moment’s silence before we dive into the world’s affairs!
As a School Chaplain, in every event I lead – and even in meetings if I dare – I ask students and teachers to be still either at the beginning or end of the assembly or meeting. In our information age, we don’t need more stuff, news, opinions; we need time to process, think, reflect and respond. And silence plays a huge part in that processing.
The great Sherlock Holmes saw the value of silence. He said of Dr Watson “You have a grand gift for silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.” But for many of us, noise is our constant companion, not silence. Even when we are alone, we fear silence and pop the radio or TV on to fill the room with sound.
Of course, it is possible to be still on the inside, even in a crowded room. The opposite it true: being on our own in ‘noiselessness’ does not guarantee inner silence. We must learn to be quiet, learn to be still, and learn how to face our own ‘noise.’
Thomas R Kelly wrote “Life is meant to be lived from a Centre, a Divine Centre. Each one of us can live such a life of amazing power and peace and serenity, of integration and confidence and simplified multiplicity, on one condition – that is, if we really want to. There is a divine Abyss within us all, a holy Infinite Centre, a Heart, a Life who speaks in us and through us to the world.”
Finding that still place does not happen by accident, it takes some practice. But maybe the BBC’s technical error has revealed a fundamental longing in the modern heart. Those few minutes of silence seemed so strained, and yet they reveal just how used to the noise we have become.
Don’t be afraid to be still. It is the gateway to sensing God’s presence. Pushing back the noise is the beginning of deep communion with God,
where we own nothing, envy nothing, hold to nothing, and there is only that eternal perfect circle that holds us
Shouting Through The Water, Ch. 12