Still, Waiting

Yesterday I had an appointment. Nevermind that I arrived uninformed of particularly important—nay—imperative instructions, the lack of which forced me to leave (after about thirty minutes of waiting) without being examined. (Okay, okay—it was a consultation for lasik eye surgery and no one told me I couldn’t wear my contacts for a WEEK prior to the appointment. Something about getting correct eye measurements.) Now that I’ve got that out of my system…

The kind of marvelous thing about my time there was the waiting room. Yes, you heard me right. It was gloriously quiet. Not library quiet. Not even middle of the night everyone’s sleeping quiet. This place some how, some way, immediately settled my soul. There were other people waiting. A boy and his mother. A gentleman with a satin jacket reminiscent of Grease, with accompanying (and complementary) heavy gold chains. Two older fellows that struck up a conversation about the wonders of automobile factories. Even in the midst of their talking (they weren’t particularly quiet), the stillness prevailed.

These days, waiting rooms seem to be just another way to blast us with news or trashy T.V. or advertisements for the latest procedures and products or educational infomercials about a better diet/diabetic markers/how to take care of a child with a cold…It’s ridiculous. And maddening. Because you have little or no control over the environment. You’re a captive audience, and they are (whoever “they” are) taking blatant advantage of you being, well, trapped like cats. Maybe they think you need entertaining to keep you from lashing out at the nurses and doctors who are invariably keeping you waiting. Usually, it’s about selling something. Tack onto that the incessant buzz of fluorescent lights, and it can (subconsciously, at least) feel like a full blown assault.

But this was an untouched place. I realize this sounds a little silly. I try not to make a habit of hitting people over the head with my experience of spirituality, but when you experience something so Real, well, I think it does some good to say so. On that morning, on that day, in my particular frame of mind, I entered a place I haven’t touched upon in what seems like a very long time. Silence.

As the Swiss philosopher Max Picard writes in The World of Silence:

Silence contains everything within itself. It is not waiting for anything; it is always wholly present in itself and it completely fills out the space in which it appears…Silence is not visible, and yet its existence is clearly apparent. It extends to the farthest distances, yet is so close to us that we can feel it as concretely as we feel our own bodies. It is intangible, yet we can feel it as directly as we feel materials and fabrics. It cannot be defined in words, yet it is quite definite and unmistakable.

Since that day there’s been a palpable internal shift in me. It’s almost like I’ve met up with a very old, dear friend I hadn’t seen or communicated with in years. Why it is that I can access this friend now—why I’ve gone so long without her presence when she was seemingly near as the air I breathe—I can’t say. Receptivity is as strange and intangible as silence itself. But I am tangibly grateful. Just ask my lungs.


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