Apr 15 2011

R. S. Thomas – But the silence in the mind

Published by at 10:03 am under Ivan's Story,Poetry

But the silence in the mind
by R. S. Thomas

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.
We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

— from For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics, by Roger Housden


/ Photo by mikebaird /

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best…

Isn’t this poem delightful in its stillness?

This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.

I particularly like the image of launching an armada of thoughts out on the bottomless ocean of silent mind.

We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

The silence is so vast that the thoughts can never arrive; they just fade into the misty distances. The image puts proper scale to our thoughts. They are tiny products that barely have substance amidst the great expanse we discover in silence.

The silence is seen, then, not as a negation or emptiness, but an overlooked, all-encompasing dimension of reality and being:

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins

And it is a challenge to us, a beckoning call…

that calls us out over our
own fathoms.

I was a teenager in the 1980s, when the first personal computers started to become available. And, yes, I was one of those nerdy computer kids, spending hours in front of the computer screen, when I wasn’t down at the neighborhood arcade feeding quarters into Pac Man and Space Invaders. It was a new medium, a new world built of light, different ways to display light, manipulate light, and finding meaning in that light. The mathematics, art, and movement of light were mesmerizing.

But once the giddiness and sense of power wears off, you realize how restless that world is. The human mind, never much at ease in any historical period, now has endless promptings to remain entranced and agitated.

I went through a period when I rejected computers and as many other elements as modern technology as I could. I desperately wanted to find out what it meant to live in the essential state of being human. What did it mean to be human 500 years ago? 5,000 years ago? What is the essential human experience of life and self-awareness?

I began to seek remote places in nature, where I could meditate and fast.

I wanted to discover that “silence in the mind” that brings us–

…within
listening distance of the silence
we call God.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m a modern person, a product of the modern era. I would greatly resent being thrust back into some previous era. I don’t take the freedoms and possibilities of my modern life for granted.

But we so miss having a place in society for silence. We are given very little encouragement to cultivate stillness. More than ever we must fight to create the space for silence in our lives. I feel great love and respect for all you misfits and spiritual revolutionaries out there quietly holding ajar the doorways to silence. You are the hope of the world.

What to do
but draw a little nearer…?

…All this, typed on a computer, sent out over the Internet. (Ivan, still trying to find ways to make light move, yet in ways that inspire peace.)

R. S. Thomas, R. S. Thomas poetry, Christian poetry R. S. Thomas

Wales (1913 – 2000) Timeline
Christian

More poetry by R. S. Thomas

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “R. S. Thomas – But the silence in the mind”

  1. Patricia Tayloron 15 Apr 2011 at 1:49 pm

    it’s all about balance and meditation leads into it.
    thanks ivan.

  2. Sylviaon 15 Apr 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Hello Ivan,

    I’m reminded of the wonderful documentary “Into Great Silence” about the Carthusian monks in the French Alps.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_Great_Silence

    They are a silent order, except, if I remember correctly, once a week thay get to chat after lunch. A truly beautiful documentary that I’d recommend if you or others haven’t seen it. And yes, the glimpse of that life that this film give us is yet another of the wonders of the modern world!

    And overdue thanks for introducing me to RS Thomas.

    best wishes to all
    Sylvia

  3. Ivan M. Grangeron 15 Apr 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I loved that documentary too, Sylvia.

  4. Ana Holubon 16 Apr 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks, Ivan, for today’s post and every Poetry Chaikhana post. You’re amazing. So is the poetry.

    from one of those misfits,
    Ana

  5. Michael Skeldingon 17 Apr 2011 at 10:58 am

    Hi Ivan.
    R.S.Thomas is one of my favourite poets and the silence my main means of meditation. So combining the two had to be a winner for me. Many times I have stood where Thomas stood silently looking out to sea. Maybe it was here that he fathomed the depth of this poem.
    Regards; Michael.

  6. Russ Korteon 17 Apr 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Hi;

    Ivan; Re, ” (Ivan, still trying to find ways to make light move, yet in ways that inspire peace.)”

    You have and are. Ivan, Thank you! – Russ