Time and Space
01 September 1987

They possessed something more valuable than all the durables that most of us depend on. That something is time.

Etched on my memory is a meal I had in the home of a villager in India. As I sat cross-legged on the floor, a hen flew down from the rafters, landed on my plate and scattered the contents everywhere.

That family was always generous. If ever I passed by, they asked me to come in. If ever I came in, they offered me a meal. If I couldn't stay, they offered me vegetables to take home.

They possessed something more valuable than all the durables that most of us depend on. That something is time.

Last summer I visited an abbey in Switzerland. It was peopled by monks who had committed themselves to serve God in silence. I was given the chance to attend one of their services -the only time in the day when they broke silence. They came in dressed in their white robes, sat there and waited. The abbot finally gave them the cue to start with a tiny tap on his chair. In our society, dwelling in noise, no one would have noticed it. In that atmosphere it was as decisive as a pistol shot and they all burst into song together.

There is a link between time and silence, between silence and listening, between listening and the spirit.

We live in an age when many of us have more than we have ever had before; which knows more than has ever been known before. We can get more done. We cope with far greater pressures. And so prosperity, knowledge and busy-ness mark our material progress.

Amazing things are accomplished through ambition and effort and the careful rationing of time so that every second is used productively.

But the spiritual dimension is best discerned in silence, through listening, when time is forgotten or suspended. There is a natural tension between the material and the spiritual. In our search for the material we have grown in prosperity at the expense of our moral and spiritual development. We have squeezed the spirit out.

Many now see the need for moral renaissance, but few can see how such a change could come about. Certainly it will not be through judgement in which we blame others; nor through acquiescence, in which we condone evil. But it could happen through something happening to us and in us.

The key may lie in our learning to love silence and to spend time quietly seeking for the new life and new commitment and new thoughts which God himself can give to us if we give him the space.

In Britain, where this magazine is being edited, many, in the Sixties and Seventies, made sex their God. Now, in the Eighties, many are chasing money and making `careerism' their God. Yet the heritage of most of us here is Christian and from Jesus we learn to seek first the Kingdom of God.

What will our choice be? For life is full of choices which determine how we and our societies develop. The profounder ones can only be processed if we dare to give ourselves time to reflect.

Constant activity allows us to lead and forces God to follow.

Silence allows God to lead and us to follow.
A world devoid of activity would see little material progress. But a world devoid of silence sees little of the miraculous.

Henry Drummond once said that just as the eye is the organ of physical sight so obedience is the organ of spiritual sight.

Silence, and through it listening, is the gateway to obedience.

This forgotten spiritual dimension is part of the inheritance of us all, whatever our background and experience. It is an adventure to explore it.

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