The Journey Toward God Through the Beauty of Silence By Karen M. Ruiz

Living as a member of a modernly busy and bustling society, it is quite common to get wrapped up into the developed cultural stressors such as maintaining a certain body image, preserving social media popularity, and conforming to millennial expectations. These stressors may be known as triggers for dangerously modern types of conditions that may disrupt the ability to successfully participate in meaningful relationships with the self, others, and God.

Culture-Induced Anxiety: many individuals experience persistent and excessive fear of rejection from peers; limiting one's spirit from freely developing

Culture-Induced Addiction: conforming to the seductive and tempting multitude of society as one begins to enter the vicious cycle of culturally addictive stages:

  • Craving- Individual longs for the stimulatory effects felt from artificial happiness (ex: making an unnecessary purchase, "partying" 5 nights a week, the "hook-up" culture)
  • Feeding- Succumbing to the desire of conforming therefore achieving temporary pleasure
  • Crashing- Diminishing euphoria
  • Repetition- Individual experiences difficulty in ceasing the cycle of satisfying events

Attempting to keep up with the many appealing yet distracting nuances being offered by our culture may be entertaining, however typically results in the absence of gratitude for solitude, quiet and peace. People of this modern era crave instant gratification of high-energy stimulation, therefore developing a gratitude for solitude, quiet and peace may be difficult, but once achieved, an individual may truly discover the organic happiness they have been searching for. The aim of this work is to define three peaceful concepts of beauty found in silence that may assist the modern individual in taking a step back from society and determining true values in life through thriving in moments of stillness. In practicing these elements, one's strength to channel the power of silence may unearth the mind-body connection that facilitates peace, positivity and a strengthened bond with God's grace. This piece also attempts to connect the aspects of beauty to pieces of pop culture and will be offered throughout.

Embark on your journey of silence...

Nowadays, silence is typically associated with the terms "awkward," or "eerie." Society tends to shun away the quietness it brings as it is commonly deemed as a state of stagnant unproductivity. The silence of the earth God presented to man has been covered and forgotten by generations that thrive off of the competition of outsmarting their earlier counterparts. In our contemporary culture, the idea of power in silence has been abandoned under replacement developments of the modernity we live in today. Those that inhabit this earth are becoming more and more fast-paced, quick to judge and less connected to the origins of nature, slowly losing the ability to thrive in peace. Let's begin to understand the beauty found in silence as members of a loud and distracting millennial world.

Intellectual work begins with a zone of silence

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The beauty of truth found in silence

The world may be seen as a book from God that is intended to be experienced and explored

In the beauty of truth found in silence, one is challenged to utilize this precious time to identify the personal values one holds and to reflect on what is pure and reliable and filter out the news that is eloquently deceptive. Here one is able to dedicate time and energy to discern fact from fiction. Here rhetoricians will be carefully studied to judge if what they claim is truth or trash. Here you can become closer to God through acceptance of a spiritual lifestyle.

Strive to acquire the knowledge, but be wise to stay modest and judge deception from charm
A sinister character who attempts to fight the human truth of aging, falls victim to obsessive jealousy

Many individuals of the past and present struggle with the sin of envy, or jealousy toward another. The root of envy is derived from the human feeling of desperation. In the queen's case she did indeed feel the phenomenon of aging creeping up on her so the envy grew strong in her desparation to escape the binding of time while attempting to acquire youth. Desparation can be applied to many sins:

  • Cheating- desparation to obtain a quick pleasure
  • Pride- desparation for high status
  • Sloth- desparation for easy living
Jean-Dominique in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

In the book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, there is so much to discuss about Jean-Dominique’s sarcastic, smart, and beautifully honest thinking. I find this man’s desire to maintain the connection to his essence of being human rather than permitting himself to succumb to the draining effects of his locked-in syndrome, amazingly moving. Despite the significant changes from his prosperous, open lifestyle, Bauby channeled and developed his imagination and memory to live his life to the absolute best of his ability. The way Bauby compared his living as both in a compressed diving bell and in the existence of a butterfly proves his awareness to his current state of being trapped but also his determination to continue communication with his world by fluttering around freely in the power of mindfulness. The silence provided by the locked-in syndrome, allowed for Jean-Dominique's contemplative journey through truth to help him understand he had been destined to leave behind a legacy of wit as a unique individual rather than seeing himself only as his weakening, debilitating diagnosis.

The minimizing of distractions allows for more time to set intentions of peace, achieve goals and feel appreciation for another day of life
Chihiro undergoes a transformation that brings her closer to a life of insight and authenticity

In the movie, Spirited Away, a teenage girl, Chihiro, is introduced as an individual who is unaware of the corruptions of society such as greed, prostitution, and responsibly. She goes through a life-changing experience that moves her from the innocence of a child to the bravery of a heroine. Throughout the movie, Chihiro is exposed to an array of evils but as she defeats each hardship she learns valuable lessons that include the importance of determination, that love destroys evil, and in order for one to survive one must believe in themselves.

Theological Perspectives on God and Beauty, by Milbank, Ward, and Wyschogrod speaks about how to see what is beautiful, is to see the invisible in the visible. This idea resonated in me and now I can strongly connect it to the experience of loving Christ. Seeing the invisible in the visible indicates the willingness and passion to further one’s understanding of, not just what makes an object beautiful, but rather how and why it is beautiful. It’s a matter of digging deeper to find the spiritual principle in its exquisiteness and I understand that the invisible is what is hidden beneath the surface of the object that contains its true meaning and relationship to God. For example, in relationships, to see the real beauty in your partner is to not just see the allure in their appearance, but to discover their soul that lies within, that God has made to be harmonious with yours.

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the beauty of imagination found in silence

Fantasy engages the ability of the mind to escape reality and ignite passion

The beauty of imagination allows for the spirit of the mind to flutter freely by exploring the depths of creativity. This is where one declares what pursuits they wish to accomplish in development of personal goals and dreams. Imagination permits the soul to enter a state of fantasy, and when paired with peace, one can drift into a state of uninterrupted inspiration by recognizing true passions and desires that make an individuals the unique being they are. Power of a child's mind is greatly appreciated here.

Orphaned Hugo Carbaret and Isabelle team together to dive into the mystery of a mechanical man

In this film based on friendship, pursuit, and enigma, orphaned Hugo imagines a life that is better for him through the recreation of a robot left behind from his father. As Hugo lives in the poverty of calling train station his home, he dreams big to achieve his goals in hopes to fulfill what his father was in the process of completing before his death. Hugo believed that his life would automatically become better by cracking his father's code but throughout the movie the audience realizes that though Hugo achieved his goal of fixing the robot, that is not what made his life better. What improved his happiness and overall quality of life was the enjoyment of working to achieve a dream and the good people he developed connections with during his journey.

A world of adventure is available for all those who believe in the magic of possibilities

My Neighbor Totoro is an incredibly heart-warming film that has the imaginative aspect of a magical creature that comes along when two sisters are in need of hope the most. Their mother has fallen ill and their father, although he is not neglecting them, is not really there to provide the support his children need during their times of sadness and discomfort. The seeds planted by this magical creature symbolize guidance throughout the journey they begin together. The sisters help the seeds grow just like Totoro supports them in the process of growing up. Totoro brings them together as sisters just like Jesus brings together a family of one under God's loving watch. During the film, the audience does not know if the children are imagining everything or not because it is all about the imagination to believe, just as one must have faith in Jesus and know that he is guiding you in the right direction. Totoro appeared in a critical time in the lives of these children and the result was an impact of such love.

Children are those closest to God because of their ability to lay down trust, and vulnerability in such an eager manner. Unlike citizens of arrogance, they are untainted by the crime of sin as they live their lives in such honesty and innocence. As T.S. Eliot states, “All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,” it feels natural to recall the words of Socrates saying, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” These two statements can be paralleled to the minds of children by suggesting that the minds of the corrupted citizens, who claim to know so much, can actually learn nothing because of the hesitance they subconsciously experience to embrace knowledge from anywhere else. “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?” This is a cry conveying that in order to become closer to the understanding of God, we must first reject the seductions of culture (embrace silence).

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the beauty of patience found in silence

The Art of "Slow"

The beauty of patience in today's world of instant gratification and easy access to a plethora of infinite resources and knowledge is the most difficult to obtain. Silence is not easy to tolerate due to our humanity losing the sense of effective communication. "The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to respond." This stage will allow one to morph into a citizen of sincerity and strength. It is here that one will raise the capacity to endure pain and hardship.

Channeling patience allows one to acknowledge and reflect on life's hardships, and foster ways to conquer and overcome the struggle; Here, the apprentice learns to become his own master

Taking time to reflect and understand feelings of struggle permits one to gain the wisdom needed to develop a well-rounded character. In Of Gods and Men, the strength and courage of the monks truly depicted trust in God. These men led such organic, and pure lifestyles and wished for nothing but peace. They were aware of the dangers surrounding their home and had many opportunities to flee and alter fate, but through discussion with each other and their creator they made a bold decision to protect and stand up for their beliefs up to their very end. One of my favorite quotes from the film was a statement by Jean-Pierre that said, “The good shepherd doesn’t abandon his flock to the wolves.” By saying this, Jean-Pierre is mindful of the unsafe possibilities that may put their lives in danger, but he and the other monks prevent fear from tainting the mind by knowing that God has a plan of destiny for those worthy. The end of this movie broke my heart. The most profound effects this film had were in the last scene, showing the terrorists and monks traveling through harsh conditions in absolute silence. The silence, combined with the camera angles focusing on each face of courage then panning out to view them disappearing into the distance, captures the viewer’s heart. It was an ending that was left to be determined by the imagination concocting how cruel the murder of the loyal monks may have been.

Text vs. Talk

Texting is such a quick and easy way of communicating; but has it stripped society from the true meaning of what communication really is intended to be? The most pure form of communication is face-to-face contact. Though it may become uncomfortable, and awkwardly "silent" at times, it is a real and human experience so vital to fulfill our needs as social creatures. Though face-to-face communication with another is not necessarily an experience of complete silence, it offers a sense of intimacy as two individuals are able to engage in a common language with just each other and no distractions. Today's popular form of communication arises through texting. Texting is an effective way of getting points across, however individuals typically use texting through technology as a form of replacing the artful use of deciphering body language, using a certain tone of voice, and expressing thoughts with emotion; true creativity through speech. Face-to-face conversation requires patience as it requires you to channel your focus to the individual you're with, which fosters a stronger relationship as two people get to know the other through the sharing of patience, time, and meaningful conversation rather than hiding behind a screen to say something that you would be too frightful to say in person.

Photos of individuals with their loved ones during familiar events of the day. Individuals of today's time have become so dependent on technology and lack in the pure desire to participate in the realness of relationships. (Top Left- Mother and child sit together physically, but are mentally separated through the use of devices; Top Right- Family of four disrupted at dinner time as they are feeding their addiction to technology, rather than feeding their love for each other; Bottom- Couple pictured in the intimacy of bedtime, however the unhealthy craving for phones prevents them from sharing time or respect)

As an occupation therapy student, I like to think that I have developed the patience that has brought me closer to treating each patient with the same amount of respect as I would with any other. In my studies in becoming a helping professional, I have learned to always value diversity and to explore my surroundings, near and far with patience and an open mind to accept failure but digest the disappointment to see positivity. I want to experience what the world has to offer by interacting with people and places unlike those that I have become so habituated to. I feel as though the world has become smaller and smaller as more time passes by, due to failure in seeking anything more than what has been laid in front of me. Growing up in the societal environment that I have been enclosed in my whole life has led me to become subconsciously brainwashed into thinking that more money leads to more happiness, perfect grades are the key to success, and the quality of material items one owns symbolizes how they stand on the social ladder. In my past, I was guilty of generating superficial judgements about innocent and kind individuals. I was one to avoid those unlike me because of an irrational fear of also being perceived as different from my "perfectly perfect" peers. Being surrounded by a Jesuit education has encouraged me to slowly develop values that are cognizant of the beauty found in imperfectness. I want to immerse myself in knowledge, experiences, and cultures that will powerfully remind me that the world is so vast and filled with so much to learn. I wish to continue my work in avoiding getting passively caught up in the tempting ways of easily corrupting culture. Through the beauty of patience found in silence I intent on furthering my education on the importance of allowing God to work through me in order to forge relationships with those of different faiths, cultures, and beliefs to continuously discover worth in each unique individual. When life gets you down, indulge in a peaceful moment to understand that things will get better through the patience of hardwork and gratitude.

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Beauty is Pleasure, Beauty is Reward

Discovering beauty is essential to the pleasure of happiness. By developing these three aspects of beauty in silence, one will continue their journey of connecting closer to the self and to God, treasuring prudence and unmasking a lasting happiness in peace. Though traits of the three aspects may overlap, this is simply further evidence that one's relationship with God is complex, but cohesive in the end.

Credits:

Created with images by Diggeo - "water reflections waterscape" • stokpic - "hands world map"

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