It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m drafting a poem, and thinking about this week’s blogaletic topic of silence and ritual. If I had to say, on a normal day, what my writing rituals look like, it would involve coffee and nice pens and music. Sitting across from the Christmas tree with no accompaniment but the huff of the computer fan would not make the list.
And yet, it’s working. Wonderfully, magically, by whatever means I don’t know, I’m watching this preposterous little poem shape and gleam and change and grow and—this moment will never happen again.
The Rabbis tell us the world was only made to last for seven days, but every Sabbath it’s renewed for another seven. Rituals, the daily props and shapes we use to make us aware of sacredness, do not in themselves create the sacred. They point out and hallow what is already, unrepeatably there. They make us notice, and listen, and to pray. They draw our gaze to the permanence of fleeting things.
Jenna wrote about her daily preparation for writing, and about the intrusion of the sacred, and her ‘un-authorial’ practice ‘to jump up at twelve o’clock sharp and say the Angelus, mid-sentence if necessary’. My days, however, are a vague, hazy chaos of deadlines and books and children and occasional piles of dishes that need doing. So I have to agree with Masha:
days ritual is attempted: 5; days ritual is lived fully: 0
Silence is something that waits for us, welcoming us when we enter. It’s a place we can live in and something we can carry with us—of course it can be both at once—even amid the busyness of unravelling routines and broken rituals. Silence offers us a place out of the shadows where we can learn to be still.
There is a subtle order to chaos, just as there are silences between the notes in music. Despite our noise and disarray, the rhythms of silence break into our lives, if we let them. And so as the world turns round the darkest days of the year, we watch the lengthening row of candles and the ever-growing light.
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and may you find wonder and beauty in the coming year.