The Cave of the Heart
The question is, then, what is the way to the beginning of peace?
The philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote: “The unhappiness of a person resides in one thing, to be unable to remain peacefully in a room.” It is silence and solitude that bring us face to face with ourselves and the inner wars we must win if we are ever to become truly whole, truly at peace. Silence gives us the opportunity we need to raise our hearts and minds to something above ourselves, to be aware of a spiritual life in us that is being starved out by pollution, to still the raging of our limitless desires. It is a call to the Cave of the Heart where the vision is clear and the heart is centered on something worthy of it.
There are some things in life that need to be nourished simply for their own sake. Art is one, music is another, good reading is a third, but the power of the contemplative vision is the greatest of them all. Only those who come to see the world as God sees the world, only those who see through the eyes of God, ever really see the glory of the world, ever really approach the peaceable kingdom, ever find peace in themselves.
Silence is the beginning of peace. It is in silence that we learn that there is more to life than life seems to offer. There is beauty and truth and vision wider than the present and deeper than the past that only silence can discover. Going into ourselves we see the whole world at war within us and begin to end the conflict. To understand ourselves, then, is to understand everyone else as well.
Because we have come to know ourselves better, we can only deal more gently with others. Knowing our own struggles, we reverence theirs. Knowing our own failures, we are in awe of their successes, less quick to condemn, less likely to boast, less intent on punishing, less certain of our certainties, less committed to our heady, vacuous, and untried convictions. Then silence becomes a social virtue.
Make no doubt about it, the ability to listen to another, to sit silently in the presence of God, to give sober heed and to ponder is the nucleus of the spirituality of peace.
—from For Everything a Season (Orbis) by Joan Chittister