Silence & Solitude
The Existential Necessity to Pause, Reflect and Think.
Jefferson Bethke seems to rightly describe the speed of 21st-century life when he says,
“A lot of us are hustling right to our own grave. Speed and hustle and hurry are the air we breathe. There’s this tsunami at all our backs, pushing us. It is called, “The Hustle.” And in all honesty, we like it and brag about it.”
Japanese protestant theologian, Kosuke Koyama, has attempted to help our generation by saying,
“God himself has a precise speed—3 mph.”
This is not the hustle. It is the speed you are traveling when you are walking at a brisk conversational pace—a non-hurried pace. We enjoy using the euphemism “we are walking with God,” but in truth, we’re not. We’re walking way out in front of him. He’s still there—but behind us, walking at his own pace.
The Hebrew word SELAH is a mysterious word. It is found 74 times in the bible—71 times in the Psalms and 3 more times in the book of Habakkuk. This enigmatic term has caused bible scholars to come up with multiple meanings and possible explanations.
Many scholars, however, believe that SELAH was a musical notation, a symbol representing something within a song—communicating the idea that it was “time to pause,” to “be silent,” “to reflect.”
This is the reason I choose this word to serve as the foundation and title of the final LAB in the LeaderLabs 2.0 series.
When I think about the concept and idea of SELAH, many conflicting words come to mind. I think of words like solitude, silence, reflection, contemplation and slow. But it also conjures up words like lonely, loneliness, isolation exhaustion, burnout, and fast; two extremes, perfectly describing the times we live in.
It has been said that the paradox of our time is this,
“We’ve never been better connected than we are today.
And we’ve never felt more alone.”
The idea of SELAH reminds me of SOLITUDE—the state of being alone. The practice of solitude has often been considered one of the traditional spiritual disciplines. Many times, the practice is associated with SILENCE.
Some people use SOLITUDE as a way to distance themselves from the distractions of the world, understanding that being alone can also be used as a time of rest and refreshment.
Jesus spent time in SOLITUDE and invited his disciples to share such times with him (group or team solitude).
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So, they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mark 6:31-32).
Like any other practice, SOLITUDE can also be taken to an unhealthy extreme. SOLITUDE is not a place to live. While there are still a few individuals who feel the call to monastic life, most of us are not meant to be hermits or to cloister ourselves away from society.
Intermittent times of SOLITUDE allow us to refocus ourselves on what is truly important. It is good, every now and then, to “come away”, we need some time spent away from others, away from cell phones, away from TVs, the internet, games and social media—away from the daily grind.
SOLITUDE, however, should never be confused with loneliness or isolation. Loneliness represents a fundamental challenge to our core humanity. We crave human connections. So, loneliness is a sign that something is wrong—that something worse lies ahead—ISOLATION.