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In today’s quiet, I returned to the lyrics of the protest song, Sounds of Silence (1964), its symbols pin-pricking the Alice-in-Wonderland world shapeshifting around its composer Paul Simon. Then, it was the war in Vietnam, with nightly footage of its atrocities numbing many viewers into powerlessness, voicelessness. Something was very wrong in our world. Switching channels helped.-

In my perception, Sounds of Silence still evokes shudders and speaks to our country’s splintering beneath heaps of social, political, and economic disorders. Morals no longer work; in their place, the bastardization of language.

The protest song opens with the imprint of a powerful dream upon the narrator that commands its communication to

People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

And at a later disaster was heard: “Just keep them quiet,” said one of the terrorists on the phone recovered from the debris of United flight 93.

The lyrics continue as if echoing Yahweh’s pleas in the Psalms:  

“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

The warning was given. Yet, with passing years, even more trivia has dulled imaginations, stoked hot pursuit of substances, and atrophied psyches—even evolving into monster-like-minions of

 the neon god they made

The timeliness of conversion of heart has never been so urgent—it can be done.

Seems to me that words have emotional lives: some retain their vibrancy; others, relegated to bone piles. That’s where revision is critical, because serious readers look for depth that resonates or challenges the human condition—at least that was what I thought until I came across the word, praise, depleted in my perception.

Yet, it appeared on the dedicatory page of Mary Oliver’s book of poems, Why I Wake Early (2004): “Lord! Who hath praise enough?” a line taken from “Providence,”composed by the priest-poet George Herbert in seventeenth-century England. Through relishing Oliver’s poems drawn from her Provincetown morning walks, I awoke to the wordlessness of praise: more an attitude toward the unfolding of creation in pristine moments than windy definition.

In Oliver’s artistic process, I sense praise empowered her co-creation with God who disciplined her senses, helped her search for apt words, then clothed revelations with simple, often one-syllable words; their explosive energy still jars her listeners, readers, and decades of fledgling writers who have sat in her classes and workshops.

Her poem, “Snow Geese”, describes such an experience: the flock, “being the color of snow, catching the sun,” their rapid flight leaving her bereft with painful/delightful longing. She concludes: “What matters/is that, when I saw them, /I saw them/as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.”

Another poem, “Look and See” concludes with heart-prayer: “Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us, if we only look and see.”—After having been regaled by a gull’s pink foot casually scratching its stomach of white feathers as it sailed overhead.

Such gifts are always offered and elicit praise within the openhearted—but as George Herbert says, there’s never enough…

February is already slipping into its second week of colorlessness.

True, a splotch of red will play with Valentine’s Day but then recede into blandness, one that enervates imaginations, yet unleashes insatiable longing.

And winter’s ferocity still stings bare calves, still evokes watery eyes, still demands snow shovels—all bound to induce shivers like frosted prods piercing our psyches and forcing consciousness lest we perish. Life appears inhospitable, as we tear off our boots for the warmth of slippers and a cup of hot chocolate.

But is it inhospitable? For those acquainted with February’s lessons, there is much to learn: subtle colors in blandness, snow tracks of furry creatures, icy-wet fingers sluicing windows, silence on the roads, and most of all, critical moisture for root systems.

Such lessons also correlate with the psyche’s need for resting in the Sacred, a resting toward intimacy with the Heart of God, during contemplation or a solitary nature walk. Thus exposed, we cannot but be touched by intimacy and breathe anew and look for opportunities for service.

Such renewal sparks any season, even our own.

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