Silence Wisdom

A finely tempered nature longs to escape from his noisy cramped surroundings into the silence of the high mountains where the eye ranges freely through the still pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity.

— Albert Einstein

Absolute silence leads to sadness. It is the image of death.

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau

After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

— Aldous Huxley

Aloneness, silence, darkness, sleep and death touch us too deeply to allow us to forget the mystery of the absolute.

— Edward J. Farrell, Surprised by the Spirit

Am I afraid that if I look too closely I will see ordinary human beings? 

— Dan Bar-On, Legacy of Silence

Answer sides with ideas, but answer the person with the person. Then often the heart’s true response is silence.

— Paul Tournier, The Meaning of Persons

Are we filling up our moments and our days and our lives with constant activity and stimulation in order to avoid the challenges of silence and stillness?

— Chuang Tzu, The Tale of the Useless Old Tree

Do not smother this moment under vain words.

— Rabindranath Tagore, Vaishnava Songs

Don’t be sorry. Be quiet.

— James Follett, Blake’s 7: Stardrive

Even a silent wild goose keeps to the flock.

— Lao She, Rickshaw Boy

Everybody’s silence is different

Babe Simple, Everybody’s Silence is Different

I know there is sadness in silence, but can I also find comfort?

— Brother Them

If you think my silence is weakness, you mistake me.

— Terry Nation, Blake’s 7: Deliverance

In her silence you were welcome and belonged. All you had to bring was a silence of your own.

— Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

In reality, silence is almost nonexistent.

— Robert Lawrence Smith, A Quaker Book of Wisdom

Silence is as common as the air we breathe.

— Robert Lawrence Smith, A Quaker Book of Wisdom

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

— Martin Luther King Jr

Is not most talking a crazed defense of a crumbling fort?

— Hafiz, Silence

It is said that the opposite of noise is silence. This isn’t true. Silence is only the absence of noise. 

— Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic

It is silence that makes listening possible.

— Kathleen Norris, Dakota

Let your speech be better than silence, or be silent.

— Dionysus The Elder

Listening is surely a prerequisite for silence. 

— Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace

Nothing’s louder than the end of a song that’s always been there.

— Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

Our aversion to solitude is really an aversion to boredom.

— Zat Rana, The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You

Out of the cleansing silence so much begins.

— Robert Lawrence Smith, A Quaker Book of Wisdom

People seek to exorcise silence.

— Andrei Makine, Dreams of my Russian Summers

Seldom those who are silent make mistakes.

— Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology

Sex is a mystery, like faith, or love, and deserves to have the glow of silence around it.

— Kathleen Norris, Dakota

Silence can mean so many things.

— Vandana Singh, Sailing the Antarsa

Silence is always silence.

— Joe Gabaef

Silence is an answer that begs three more questions.

— Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum

Silence is God’s gift to our minds.

— Robert Lawrence Smith, A Quaker Book of Wisdom

Silence is not passive.

— Kathleen Norris, Dakota

People speak because they are afraid of silence.

— Andrei Makine, Dreams of my Russian Summers

Silence is the lie of the good man or the coward.

— Kent Nerburn, Neither Wolf nor Dog

Silence is the perfectest heralt of joy; I were but little happy, if I could say how much!

— William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Silence is the virtue of a fool.

— Sir Francis Bacon

Silence reminds me to take my soul wherever I go. 

— a North Dakota grade school girl, Amazing Grace

Silence. Even speaking the word seems to violate it’s meaning.

— Robert Lawrence Smith, A Quaker Book of Wisdom

Solitude is a good place to visit but a poor place to stay.

— Josh Billings

Sometimes my greatest accomplishment is just keeping my mouth shut.

— A.A. Milne

Sometimes silence is the only sound.

— Nickel Creek, Hanging by a Thread

Sustained silence is too much to bear.

— Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes

That which is most worth shouting from the rooftops must be tested by inner silence first.

— Gareth Higgins, The Porch #78

The “code of silence” is not a sign of confidence, but of despair. 

— Doug Frank, A Gentler God

The day, with the noise of this little earth, drowns the silence of all worlds.

— Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds

The language of truth can often be heard in silence if only we know how to listen.

— Robert Lawrence Smith, A Quaker Book of Wisdom

The rampart of silence is not the surest means of self-defense.

— Rabindranath Tagore, The Fugitive Gold

The silence between the notes is what makes the music.

— Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence.

— Franz Kafka

The spoken word is silver but the unspoken is golden.

— Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

The stillness will ripen its own music in the dark.

— Rabindranath Tagore, Vaishnava Songs

The true can afford to be quiet, and finds silence to be its wisdom.

— C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

The wildest, most dangerous trails are always the ones within. 

— Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.

— Paul Simon, The Sounds of Silence

There is harmony in the silence.

— Chris B

To live communally in silence is to admit a new power into your life.

— Kathleen Norris, Dakota

True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable.

— Dave Tyson Gentry

Wash thy soul with silence.

— Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds

We can in some degree be conscious of [God] in silence, but we cannot in discourse unfold Him as He is.

— Novatian, The Trinity

We turned silence into something to share.

— Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

We were stained by dew, and shamed into pettiness by the innumerable silences of stars.

— T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

What shape is your silence?

— Brother Them

What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

— Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus

When something important is going on, silence is a lie.

— A.M. Rosenthal, NY Times 10/8/91 RE: AIDS

When you are lonely, make a friend of loneliness.

— Vandana Singh, RefSailing the Antarsaerence

Who we really are is found in the silence.

— Marshall Davis, Meeting God in the Pandemic

Why bother to make music when the silence and wind are so much larger?

— Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

Wisdom begins in silence.

— Robert Lawrence Smith, A Quaker Book of Wisdom

Wisdom’s self oft seeks to sweet retired solitude, Where, with her best nurse Contemplation, She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings.

— John Milton, Comus

Without silence words lose their meaning.

— Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude

You are not the voice that all things utter, nor is there eternal silence in the places where you cannot come.

— C.S.Lewis, Perelandra

C.S. Lewis on Gender and Myth

At the risk of exciting displeasure from the folks at Simon & Schuster, I have decided to invite the widely loved and often controversial, or even loathed, scholar, writer, and Christian apologist as my guest blogger. This excerpt is from Perelandra Chapter 16, first published in England amongst the clamor of conflict between the Battle of Britain and Victory in Europe as the second book of his science fiction trilogy which began with Out of the Silent Planet and concluded with That Hideous Strength.

“What Ransom saw at that moment was the real meaning of gender. Everyone must sometimes have wondered why in nearly all tongues certain inanimate objects are masculine and others feminine. What is masculine about a mountain or feminine about certain trees? Ransom has cured me of believing that this is a purely morphological phenomenon, depending on the form of the word. Still less is gender an imaginative extension of sex. Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics into them. The real process is the reverse. Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings. Female sex is simply one of the things that have feminine gender; there are many others, and Masculine and Feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless. Masculine is not attenuated male, nor feminine attenuated female. On the contrary, the male and female of organic creatures are rather faint and blurred reflections of masculine and feminine. Their reproductive functions, their differences in strength and size, partly exhibit, but partly also confuse and misrepresent, the real polarity… When and from whom had the children of Adam learned that Ares was a man of war and Aphrodite rose from the sea foam? … How then do we know of them? It comes, they told him, a long way round and through many stages. There is an environment of minds as well as of space. The universe is one – a spider’s web wherein each mind lives along every line, a vast whispering gallery where, though no news travels unchanged, yet no secret can be rigorously kept… in the very matter of our world, the traces of the celestial commonwealth are not quite lost. Memory passes through the womb and hovers in the air. The Muse is a real thing. A faint breath, as Virgil says, reaches even the late generations. Our mythology is based on a solider reality than we dream: but it is also at an almost infinite distance from that base. And when they told him this, Ransom at last understood why mythology was what it was – gleams of celestial strength and beauty falling on a jungle of filth and imbecility.”


We have a few suggestions to help you get the most out of each Proctor Charlie conversation. These suggestions may also be applied to any conversation you may engage most anywhere…

  1. Proctor Charlie conversations, and maybe many other conversations, are an opportunity for you to engage in a meditative experience. We suggest taking a deep breath before beginning to read (or beginning to listen).
  2. Read (or listen) slowly and deliberately. Consider any possible implications of the statement. (Note that Proctor Charlie may or may not agree with a given statement, but he has always found something of interest in the words or they would not be here.)
  3. Go back and read the words again, this time considering any implications implied by each hyperlinked word or phrase. (Note here that you are being encouraged to take someone’s words out of context. The fact is that Proctor Charlie only looks for very short but interesting bits of language. Most short bits of language are, in one way or another, out of context, which is exactly what can often make them so very interesting.)
  4. Now consider each hyperlinked word or phrase and ask yourself which might be the most interesting direction to take the conversation from here.
  5. Click away and then start over with Suggestion 1 above on the next little port of call on the unique conversational voyage which you have embarked upon. BUT FIRST consider contributing to the conversation. How would YOU have responded? OR you may have a favorite bit of wisdom you have heard or read that would contribute a different perspective. Any time you have such a notion, submit a suggestion. The Proctor Charlie Collective looks forward to enjoying your perspective.

Start a conversation…

Out of Context

We apologize for being out of the loop, with a couple of small exceptions, for the past year while we complete the first complete draft of our online “conversation through the ages”. The project eventually ran to more than 700 pages and we are still cleaning up errors and inconsistencies, but the site is at least now fully functional. Do read on here for some musings on the nature of the Conversation and click on a hyperlink to join in on the fun and fascination. If you do happen upon anything in error, or if you happen to be kind enough to provide constructive feedback you can use the “submit your own pieces of conversation” hyperlink for that purpose as well.

Why do I title this “Out of Context”? Consider this little parenthesis from the Suggestion Page: Proctor Charlie only looks for very short but interesting bits of language. Most short bits of language are, in one way or another, out of context, which is exactly what can often make them so very interesting.

For all we know for certain, our entire lives may be lived “out of context”. That may just be a notion to keep in mind as you go about today’s business…

Arguably, every utterance is a response. Whatever those very first human utterances were responding to, whether it might’ve been screaming before a charging sabre tooth, or maybe gasping in amazement at first beholding the world through newly aware eyes, or even clicking the tongue against the teeth in hopes of attracting the attention of a likely mate, or, as many may choose to believe, some worshipful word in some strange new tongue in response to a Creator Deity, whatever that first conscious utterance was, responding utterances were sure to follow out of the ever expanding chorus of the voices of creation.

Some such utterances and responses echo down through the ages, prompting ever more responses, some interesting, some amazing, some that leave us wondering what sort of strange universe such an idea could have sprung from.

The Proctor Charlie Collective attempts to connect significant utterances of all types across continents, cultures and time. We invite you to return to the home page and pick a place to start your conversation. It may take you in hundreds of directions. You may even wish to join in. You may just find your way home.

Note that this conversation is always under construction. You may use this link to offer corrections and criticisms or submit your own pieces of conversation for the editors to consider. When browsing the conversation you may simply scroll down on any page and select one of the default hyperlinks at the bottom.


The Gift of Dread 

(Existential Alley)

It’s now been a quarter century since Gavin de Becker first published The Gift of Fear. I admit I never have gotten around to reading the book, but my wife did many years ago and found it valuable. Other psychologists have spent a good deal of ink addressing irrational fear. From what I’ve gathered, de Becker was not writing at all in defense of irrational fear, but his subject might’ve been something more like pre-rational fear, which he encouraged us to pay attention to and use it to help keep ourselves “reasonably” safe when encountering strangers and navigating unfamiliar territory. That feeling of fear we might be experiencing at such times is not exactly rational, yet de Becker was encouraging us to treat that fear rationally.

What I am wondering about here is a somewhat related sensation I encounter from time to time which I have begun to name as “dread”. Others might be tempted to translate “existential angst”, but I have my doubts whether it is necessarily the same. In my own case, this dread manifests as a kind of burning feeling directly behind my lower sternum. It may be triggered when something suddenly goes “wrong”, often something as simple as losing something that is actually easily replaced, but more often it is prompted by a sudden break in an important relationship. However I have also had the experience of that feeling descending, it seems, from nowhere discernable.

To my mind, the main difference between fear and dread is that fear tends to be about something that might happen, whereas dread is more often about something that has happened or is happening. For this reason I would assert that most fear is irrational in the sense that some of us humans have a penchant for imagining worst case scenarios that never come about. Dread, in the sense that I am trying to communicate here, would seldom be inherently irrational, except that I suspect the feeling is out of proportion to any given situation which might be prompting it.

This brings up a gift that fear offers that I don’t believe de Becker touched on. It is true that this pre-rational fear may well serve to keep us out of serious trouble, as we learn in the book, but there is also the fact that without fear, whether rational or not, that most noble of human virtues, courage, would be quite impossible. This gift of fear may have somewhat of a corollary with our feelings of dread. If you can identify at all with the “dread center” I described, somewhere behind the sternum, perhaps you have also experienced a “joy” or even “ecstasy” center. I find that center, usually, in the same general area as my dread center. If no joy center comes immediately to mind for you, try to remember all the way back to lying in bed on Christmas Eve, or whichever annual celebratory event in your young experience that prompted intense anticipation, like a trip to Disneyland or the return of an absent parent. The dread I speak of evokes similar intense anticipation, except that it apparently anticipates some worst case scenario that I have not the imagination to consciously conjure. It is this very shortfall of imagination that hints to me of hidden gold beneath my momentary dread.

Courage does not live beyond the bounds of imagination, for our very fears have already fired our imagination with one or more worst case scenario, yet courage gives us the will to forge ahead anyway. What, then, I ask myself, is the corollary to dread which lives beyond my imagination? 

I had the experience at the age of four of being severely scalded down my back. The experience was horrific enough, yet it was tempered by the common human experience of “going into shock”. When we reach the limits of human sensory experience our sensibilities protect themselves from permanent damage by automatically shutting down. I suspect the same phenomenon occurs beyond the limits of human ecstasy. Could it be something like this experience which induces some to create an artificial drug-induced experience at the opposite end of whatever they might be experiencing or fearing at the dread end of the continuum? Why do so many of us literally risk our very lives as we willingly pursue such an escape?

How many mystics through the ages have hinted at wonders experienced for which they could find no words? And even then, the experience hinted at is suspected of being itself, little more than a hint beyond the mystic’s own ability to imagine, just as the patriarch closed his eyes as God’s Spirit passed, lest he look on the divine face and fall dead. 

Could it be that my sensations of dread actually expand my capacity to anticipate an unimaginable joy, perhaps even, someday, to experience unimaginable happiness face to face?

Housetop Musings – a Christmas guest blog

Up on the Housetop, a song repurposed, remastered, and upgraded by Lacey Brown

Musings by Jeanette Olson

Ho, ho, ho, who wouldn’t go…up on the housetop with Good Saint Nick? When I was a kid, this was a kiddy jingle that would be played incessantly on the radio along with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, All I Want for Christmas was My Two Front Teeth, and Jingle Bells. Silly 1950’s! My favorite was Jingle Bells. The other songs I was philosophically opposed to as they were nonsense songs. The other reindeer were mean to Rudolph. Two front teeth are not a present to wish for when there were so many wonderful toys one could ask Santa to bring! As for Up on the Housetop, what does it mean? Why is the song a question? No one would go up on the housetop with Saint Nick because he would never come to your house if you were sitting there bold as Shirley Temple up on the housetop! No question! And ho, ho, ho, who wouldn’t know? Everyone would know if you went up on the housetop! There are no secrets in my neighborhood! It is possible that I may have misheard the song lyrics and the question of who wouldn’t go was the only question in the song. And there is the fact that I thought Silent Night included round, virgin olives tender and bright which was a special favorite of mine. (I would put those glistening black olives on each of my five fingers and gently pull them off with my teeth and eat 10 at a go.)

Lacey Brown’s version of this song makes it clear that the question is who wouldn’t go. And that got me thinking. Would I go up on the housetop? Would children go up? Who was inviting us to go up? Santa Claus, or some other omniscient being? Could I be way up high on a rooftop with a magical person who delivers toys to children? What would hold me back? Fear? Disdain and lack of belief? I think about the people I know. I think they are the type that would go up on the housetop with St. Nick. The people I know are curious, hopeful, and ready to test theories on whether or not Santa Claus is real. Even their cynic wants to be proved wrong. I would be up on the housetop.

People who wouldn’t go up on the housetop lack imagination and are not grounded in reality. Like Trumpers and Q-Anons. St. Francis for sure would go up on the housetop. Jesus would go up on the housetop. My son Isaac might not because he is afraid of heights. But he is not afraid of magic so I think he too, would be up on the housetop. My mother, what would she do? For sure she would strongly suggest that I come down from up top. But, I think she could be persuaded to throw aside her fear and come on up. My dad would definitely be up on the housetop. 

My family is not a family of risk takers. Yet every one of them would go up on the rooftop for the magic of St. Nick. Except for Ned, or so he says. I know differently.

Once a Future…

Where do you suppose this youngster was headed fifty years ago? I’d say it was a mercy he had no idea where his little car would carry him just a year later…

It was the summer of ’72. That was a very intense summer. It was a summer of exciting and fleeting relationships. It was a summer of deep thoughts and tall mountains and hard work, strenuous physical labor. It was a summer long anticipated that took me completely by surprise. It ambushed me out of nowhere, yet not entirely without warning. The artist Roger Feldman warned me in no uncertain terms as he pointed out what a sheltered suburban life I’d been leading. Of course he was never specific and he needn’t be a prophet to see that life would soon be offering me new challenges. Most likely he’d used much the same language with any number of young men that summer as he led long strings of young people up and down the Canadian Rockies above the fjords of British Columbia. At the time I took the warning as seriously as any teenage kid would, but as it turned out, this warning was just specific enough to be at least a little spooky. Neither of us could’ve known what I would soon be facing.

It was a long hike down that mountain followed by an eight hour voyage back to Vancouver and then followed by an all night drive on to Seattle with my buddy the late Dave Jones at the wheel of Randy Couter’s old beater (that needed another quart of oil every few hundred miles). In the morning I sat at the kitchen table with Mom, Dad, sisters and brothers, all coming and going just as they had my whole life. I was fresh from a hot shower and sat going through my mail, feeling my tired, yet young, strong, hardened body radiating irrational confidence. The black rotary dial phone on the kitchen wall went off. Whoever it was that had been filling in for me while I was off on my mountain adventure had left a van full of newspaper bundles sitting out behind the office of the Eastside Journal. Those newspapers still needed to find all the eyeballs around town who waited impatiently to consume them. The next day was more of the same. Each day as full as the last with some physically demanding something or another, seemingly from dawn to dusk. And the next day and the next and the next more of the same. As each new challenge arose, for a whole long month, Roger’s warning would pop back into my sprawling adolescent mind promising bigger challenges yet to come as some force of the universe continued to toughen me up, mind and body.

Then one bright sunny August day I awoke to find the entire day sprawling out before me containing absolutely no obligations whatsoever. For that one whole day I could be the carefree kid once again. I hopped into my little red car and bounced off up the hill to the high school to engage that tough young mind and body in some of the vigorous touch football that had been going on up there all summer without me. An hour or so later I was crossing the field with the warm afternoon sun on my back and the sweet scent of cut grass in my nostrils. I tossed the ball in the air, snagging it again lightly as it fell. It was that easy motion of the kid at heart that had engaged males of any age or tongue, probably since we had learned that most anything might be flung into the air to some impressive, if not particularly useful, effect.

As the ball dropped lazily, once again, into my grip I spotted my sister Leanne walking hurriedly toward me from the parking lot. Even yet, after all these years, I’m always glad to see my sister, but that afternoon my smile quickly melted into something, I’m still not quite sure what, when I saw that she was crying. Once we came close enough she simply blurted out to me, as best she could, that Dad was dead.

My young soul was suddenly draped in an adult face as I dropped the ball and wrapped an arm around Leanne as we made our way back to the parking lot. All I could think was, “This is it!” But of course I could hardly know what I was talking about. That carefree kid is still in there somewhere, though perhaps, in a decades old body, pretending at life somewhat more carefully since those days. I still had so much growing up yet to do, but those are stories for another day. Maybe these decades later I can at least begin to shed a tear, for myself, for my dad, maybe for a thousand of our tough Norwegian forbears.

I do have a strange little postscript, however. Reaching out to Roger this week I found out that he too had lost his father when Roger was about the age I was when we had that short conversation there on the mountainside in the summer of ’72. Maybe I’ll get to hear that story.

fingers on the sunrise


On a virtual conference this morning my friend Jeff asked where exactly it was that I was off to on this retreat. I shot this image from yesterday morning back to him forgetting that I had “messed it up” by, forgetting the implications, snapping it through the window and capturing my own fingers reflected on the glass. He asked if he could paint it. When I see him again I’ll have to ask if he intends to paint my fingers as well the sunrise, the sound and the ferry dock.

But my original intent here this morning was “Reckless Respect” rather than “fingers on the sunrise”. Somehow, though, respect seems strangely consistent with the way my wayward fingers “innocently” bombed God’s otherwise perfect sunrise…

How can Creator seem to offer such reckless respect for creation? Is not the creation less than, or at least some subset, of the full reality and being of Creator assuming this original creator exists at all? I snapped this image through the window in vain hopes of capturing some moment in time as it slipped through my fleeting experience. Even though in my haste I didn’t even take the time to open the window, the moment slipped on by before I could even snap the shutter. Jeff wants to paint it anyway. Is Jeff, perhaps with the eye of an artist, seeing more in the image than I can see? Is it his desire to somehow capture more than just a moment in time? Or perhaps he would capture as well my ghost behind the image? Is his desire every bit as vain as mine? Could any such desire be not so much vanity as some faint reflection of the heart of Creator?

And yet there lies the question, the mystery. Has some Creator relinquished power to that creation, even at the risk, perhaps even the imperative, that the creation will be corrupted, even grossly corrupted in the hands of the created? Or perhaps such mysteries just may be evidence of a much greater power hidden beyond the limits of my own imagination. Is there some kind of unimaginable genius capable of remaining utterly and incomprehensibly good and compassionate behind, above, even beyond such a creation and beyond my ignorant questioning?