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Series I - Chapter 24 - ‘Silence’
Series I - Chapter 24 - ‘Silence’
IT WAS A powerful motor and well tuned; it took the hills easily, without a stutter, and the pick-up was excellent. The road climbed steeply out of the valley and ran between orchards of orange and tall, wide-spreading walnut trees. On both sides of the road the orchards stretched for fully forty miles, up to the very foot of the mountains. Becoming straight, the road passed through one or two small towns, and then continued into the open country, which was bright green with alfalfa. Again winding through many hills, the road finally came out on to the desert.
It was a smooth road, the hum of the motor was steady, and the traffic was very light. There was an intense awareness of the country, of the occasional passing car, of the road signals, of the clear blue sky, of the body sitting in the car; but the mind was very still. It was not the quietness of exhaustion, or of relaxation, but a stillness that was very alert. There was no point from which the mind was still; there was no observer of this tranquillity; the experiencer was wholly absent. Though there was desultory conversation, there was no ripple in this silence. One heard the roar of the wind as the car sped along, yet this stillness was inseparable from the noise of the wind, from the sounds of the car, and from the spoken word. The mind had no recollection of previous stillnesses, of those silences it had known; it did not say, “This is tranquillity.” There was no verbalization, which is only the recognition and the affirmation of a somewhat similar experience. Because there was no verbalization, thought was absent. There was no recording, and therefore thought was not able to pick up the silence or to think about it; for the word “stillness” is not stillness. When the word is not, the mind cannot operate, and so the experiencer cannot store up as a means of further pleasure. There was no gathering process at work, nor was there approximation or assimilation. The movement of the mind was totally absent.
The car stopped at the houses The barking of the dog, the unpacking of the car and the general disturbance in no way affected this extraordinary silence. There was no disturbance, and the stillness went on. The wind was among the pines, the shadows were long, and a wildcat sneaked away among the bushes. In this silence there was movement, and the movement was not a distraction. There was no fixed attention from which to be distracted. There is distraction when the main interest shifts; but in this silence there was absence of interest, and so there was no wandering away. Movement was not away from the silence but was of it. It was the stillness, not of death, of decay, but of life in which there was a total absence of conflict. With most of us, the struggle of pain and pleasure, the urge of activity, gives us the sense of life; and if that urge were taken away, we should be lost and soon disintegrate. But this stillness and its movement was creation ever renewing itself. It was a movement that had no beginning and so had no ending; nor was it a continuity. Movement implies time; but here there was no time. Time is the more and the less, the near and the far, yesterday and tomorrow; but in this stillness all comparison ceased. It was not a silence that came to an end to begin again; there was no repetition. The many tricks of the cunning mind were wholly absent.
If this silence were an illusion the mind would have some relationship to it, it would either reject it or cling to it, reason it away or with subtle satisfaction identify itself with it; but since it has no relationship to this silence, the mind cannot accept or deny it. The mind can operate only with its own projections, with the things which are of itself; but it has no relationship with the things that are not of its own origin. This silence is not of the mind, and so the mind cannot cultivate or become identified with it. The content of this silence is not to be measured by words.