The beauty of silence is an antidote to the modern world’s obsession with consumption – John Lane

John Lane’s appeal for silence, taken from his classic book The Spirit of Silence: Making space for creativity


To be clever enough to get all that money, one must be stupid enough to want it.

G. K. Chesterton

The widespread assumption that money is the supreme measure of achievement and happiness holds millions in its thrall. Caring for others, creative achievement, disinterested altruism, virtuous behaviour—these are still valued, but to a lesser extent than luxury and leisure, however acquired.

Nonetheless, there is only rather feeble evidence that great wealth leads to great happiness; there are too many melancholy millionaires with time on their hands for that to be so. Yet the myth persists that money brings not only pleasure but unequivocal happiness. Gandhi even prophesied that “the incessant search for material comforts and their multiplication is such an evil, and I make bold to add that the Europeans themselves will have to remodel their outlook if they are not to perish under the weight of these comforts they are becoming slaves to.”

Yet as our culture lapses ever more deeply into its obsession with consumption, with things, as it urges upon us new wants and pseudoneeds, promising limitless technological progress and delivering endless distraction, it is surely time to consider where this faith in money and desire for possessions is taking us.

It is also time to consider the value of simplicity, silence and solitude “Silence,” writes Max Picard in The World of Silence, “is the only phenomenon today that is ‘useless’. It does not fit into the world of profit and utility. It simply is. It seems to have no other purpose; it cannot be exploited. . . . You cannot get anything out of it. It is ‘unproductive’. Therefore it is regarded as valueless.

“Yet there is more help and healing in silence than in all the ‘useful things’. Purposeless, unexploitable silence, suddenly appears at the side of the all-too-purposeful, and frightens us by its very purposelessness. It interferes with the regular flow of the purposeful. It strengthens the untouchable, it lessens the damage inflicted by exploitation. It makes things whole again, by taking them back from the world of dissipation into the world of wholeness. It gives things something of its own holy uselessness, for that is what silence itself is: holy uselessness.” […]

We all need time not only for reflection, but for relaxation. We need time to renew ourselves, to strengthen our depleted resources. And if this has been true in the past, it has never been more so than in our own time—demanding and greedy as it is. We need silence as an antidote to the clamour, solitude as a barrier against the distractions, and slowness as a cure for the current speed of life.

For find out more about John Lane’s works, click here


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