As someone who thinks mall foodcourts are the third circle of Hell (why do they play loud canned music when the echo chambers they build are already full of noisy people?), reading a book about silence appealed. But it has been a challenge. Novelist Sara Maitland writes about her personal journey into silence. That is pretty challenging in itself as she describes the transition from noisy family upbringing, vocal feminist campaigner, to vicar’s wife, to Catholic convert, to seeker of silence in the Sinai Desert and the isle of Skye. Fascinating but sometimes taking me well out of my depth in religion, philosophy and psychology – areas I don’t usually read.
And boy does she love her words – I had to reach for the dictionary – “apophatic” “kenotic” “phylogenetically” and more.
The Book of Silence finishes with Sara living in a very underpopulated area of Scotland – I hesitate to call it remote as in Kiwi terms it is not. But her house sits alone on a moor, she practices a disciplined life of meditation, prayer, reading and writing with no radio or television and the phone unplugged on a certain number of days. It’s not hermit in a cave stuff but in modern terms it certainly is a challenging way to live.