One of my favorite sentences from one of my favorite essays by C.S. Lewis is: “We live in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”
Could there be a more perfect summary of the theme of this issue?
Stillness, of course, suggests or implies each of the things Lewis mentions in that sentence—solitude, silence and privacy. Just as it suggests the “three words” at the start of this issue—silently, slowly, softly.
Lewis wrote those words in 1945, just as the second world war was coming to a conclusion. His complaint at that time was that there was precious little time to be alone. We live “in a crowd,” he wrote. “Caucus has replaced friendship.” And, he goes on, even when “someone is left physically by himself, the wireless has seen to it that he will be . . . never less alone than when alone.”
The wireless. That was one of Lewis’s concerns in 1945—making him worried that time by ourselves, alone with our thoughts, being still, was being robbed from us.
What do you think he would say about our world today, where each of us walks around at all times with a device that most certainly assures us that we will never be alone, that we will never have silence, and that we will never have privacy? He would, I think, be even more deeply concerned than he was in 1945.
In 1670, nearly three centuries before Lewis—and long before the wireless had been invented—French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote something similar to Lewis’ sentence: “All of humanity’s problems,” he reflected, “stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” And again, I ask: What do you think Pascal would say if he saw the state of the world in 2022? He certainly wouldn’t be filled with hope that we had discovered better ways over the last few centuries to “sit quietly in a room alone.”
Friends, as suggested throughout this issue, might I encourage you to find some time this season to be still? To be quiet? To be alone? If Lewis and Pascal—and countless others—are right, it may not only be good for you. It may also be good for the world.