"Small talk exists simply to cannibalize silence"
While reading Mr. Walsh's piece, particularly his delicious broadside against small talk, I was reminded of my own introversion, of my need for silence and solitude, and also of the things I found most moving about my time away at the monastery.
My favorite time of the day was the long period of time after vigils and before lauds - 4 AM to 6:30 AM - that was reserved for private prayer and lectio divina in cell; I would leave the chapel after vigils, go down the corridor to the refectory, have a piece of toast with peanut butter, a bowl of raisin bran, and a cup of weak coffee and consume all those in silence. Then I would go up the three floors to my cell to do my private prayers, readings, and devotions: I'd start with my Angelic Warfare Confraternity prayers, imploring God's assistance against the mercilessly unchaste thoughts and memories that beset me every day; then I would say a rosary, lying on my back in a cruciform posture; after that, I would set about my reading, usually passages form the epistles, as well as works by a variety of writers such as Bede the Venerable, John of Forde, St. Bernard, Caryll Houselander, and others. I tried reading Gertrude the Great, but found her too girly for my tastes; I settled into some of Newman's Plain and Parochial Sermons and one point, and into a biography of St. Hugh of Lincoln. I was smitten with English saints.
But I digress. It happens, though; the monastery was a place where the imagination could wander, where I could sit still long enough to give Jesus a chance to be heard over the noise within. And it is noisy in there; that's the thing that terrifies us so about silence: only in the silence and solitude are we forced to confront our true selves in any meaningful way. I believe that is why our world is so noisy; we do not want to confront ourselves in our weakness, our regrets, in our crushing desires and insatiable appetites. We would rather have those things numbed, dulled, dampened by a constant onslaught of sight and sound. That confrontation was one of the most difficult and painful things I've ever experienced, and yet it was also beautifully transformative.
It is my hope that I can carry that message to the world, to let people know that there is nothing to fear in silence and solitude, that to confront God's love there is something that will change you forever, for the better. I want people to know that there is more out there than the noise, that we are meant for more than it.