If a child is to get to know himself, to know who he is and what he cares for, he needs to beunafraid of silence, and this is an area of life where the school has duties as never before. Inner silence is essential for the flowering of personal identity and exterior silence is nearly always a pre-requisite for this. The modern concern for identity and the widespread sense of alienation in life and the arts is not helped by the seepage of noise into so many places where it need not be. More and more of the world is wired for sound, and too often a transistor is carried like a talisman to ward off the danger of silence. Its unheeded chatter and music give the illusion that some human contact is being made while the insight and vision that grow in silence cannot even begin to stir into life. It is ironic that people driven by the need to find peace will head for the mountain, the forest or the sea and then switch on the radio to reassure themselves that the background noise is still there. It is in childhood that we can best get a taste for silence, and the school has a duty to provide this quiet growing time. There are occasions when a happy din of activity is desirable but if it becomes the norm the child will be damaged.
Eve Anderson, former headmistress of Eton End gave me this article about silence from something she picked up while at the House of Education in Ambleside. In considering a life-giving education, we have talked about the need of silence in the classroom. In fact, interns attending our training frequently comment that the teachers are not afraid of silence. One intern remarked, “I wish I had a given time to think of something quietly.”
In being intentional about silence, I am reminded about my Mother’s instruction during Holy Week. As a child I always looked forward to Holy Week. There were times of fasting, prayer, church-going, and silence. My Mother would remind us of our need to be quiet, especially on Good Friday, as we reflected upon the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. From noon to three, we were to be quiet, sitting, thinking, praying, being. Of course, there was restlessness in silence. How much longer? I don’t know what to do! But slowly we would stop resisting the silence and give into it. We became accustomed to quiet times and were the better for it. Give yourself and your children the gift of quiet this week and be blessed in the silence.