Apr 12 2021

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

Published by at 7:43 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


/ Image by MindSqueeZe /

A rare Monday poem email. Since it has been nearly a month since I last sent a Poetry Chaikhana email out, I decided not to wait until the end of the week. There are several reasons for the unannounced pause in the emails.

I live outside of Boulder, Colorado and, as many of you are probably aware, there was a terrible shooting in Boulder a few weeks ago at a local grocery store. When my wife and I first moved to the area years ago, we lived within a few blocks of that store and often shopped for groceries there. We now live several miles away and were not in immediate danger during the shooting. But, of course, we still felt the trauma of the community, magnified by our own personal history with the scene of so much bloodshed.

In the aftermath, I didn’t want to immediately send out a poem. I wasn’t quite ready to talk about the event, and it would have felt wrong to ignore it.

Soon after, I had a birthday and Easter came up. And through it all, my day job has been especially busy.

For all of those reasons I felt it was best to wait.

But with spring blossoming in our area, it feels like it is now time to return to poetry and the reawakening of life. So I have a beautiful poem of silences for us today…

=

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 small things with barely any substance amidst the great expanse we discover in silence.

The silence is seen, then, not as a negation or emptiness, but as 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 along with as many other elements of 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.)


Recommended Books: R. S. Thomas

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds R. S. Thomas: Selected Poems R. S. Thomas (Everyman Poetry) R. S. Thomas: Collected Poems 1945-1990
More Books >>


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

Wales (1913 – 2000) Timeline
Christian

The son of a sailor, Thomas led an unsettled life in early childhood, moving with his family from port town to port town.

As an adult, R. S. Thomas became an Anglican priest, serving rural Welsh farming communities.

Thomas dabbled in poetry in school, but it wasn’t until he met the painter Mildred E. Eldridge, the woman who would become his wife, that be began to take poetry seriously.

More poetry by R. S. Thomas

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4 responses so far

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

  1. Carolon 15 Apr 2021 at 2:43 am

    Oh Ivan, so glad you are back, and I do love this poem. R.S. Thomas is familiar, but
    this poem is special. Silence is healing and sometimes takes a real effort to
    appreciate it in our noisy culture. Thank You.

  2. patrick collinson 17 Apr 2021 at 3:57 am

    Ivan, lovely to hear from you again. I keep your book ‘The Longing In Between’ by my bedside. Keep up your great ‘work’.
    Every Blessing
    Patrick

  3. Anna M.on 18 Apr 2021 at 6:37 am

    “…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.)”

    I head a dream in which
    I do receive a telepathic
    message of your weekly email
    with a poem and the commentary with it,
    but all was just from your mind…

    …and you added, “all these computers
    and Internet are already obsolete
    tools for communication…”

    …”those who are in resonance of
    the frequency of the same wave length,
    will receive the message aka the ‘email’,
    and even people could sent back commentary
    and between them…”

    So, may be the concept that we all are interconnected
    will manifest…with the re_”discovery a new path
    through every magical, unknown day”…
    when the mind is silenced and
    only the soul will talk…

    Do you liked the dream, or may be it sounds
    a bit like an utopia?:)

    I am sure it already has happened on eternal level,
    just we need more linear time, so to speak, for it to manifest…

    or as R.S. Thomas said:

    “ What to do
    but draw a little nearer to
    such ubiquity by remaining still? “

  4. Elaon 20 Apr 2021 at 9:47 am

    Hi Ivan,

    I think

    For a spiritual revolution
    let’s let the power of silence
    take the soul beyond the
    limited attractions into a
    perfect stage.

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