It is normal in this holiday season to desire to please those around us. Whether it is with parties, dinners, or shopping for gifts, our available time seems to be less and less. Whether you are in a culture that celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, the New Year, or any combination, the common spirit is one of reevaluation, redemption, renewal, and rededication. The difficult part for us is finding the time to devote to these “4 R’s”. We are bombarded with noise of fellow shoppers, excited children, noises from work, traffic, television and a host of other sources. It is no wonder that many people feel overwhelmed and look forward to just “getting past” the holidays. But let us step back and examine the value of contemplation.
In a spiritual sense, silence as the ability to be free of thoughts helps us to know ourselves better; To be able to understand our “own true self”. I believe that this leads us to self-reflection making it easier to evaluate our thoughts, actions, and words towards others, ultimately influencing how we live our lives.
Conversely, in his virtue of Silence, Benjamin Franklin tells us to “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.” From this, we understand that we are more receptive to not only the ideas of others, but gain for ourselves the ability to simply think and generate new ideas – a rare thing these days.
I may appear tactless in quoting from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” as I promote contemplation during the holidays, but one of his more famous quotes from this book ties my previous thoughts together. I have rearranged the tenants of his statement to make a point,
– If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.
– When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal.
– Know your enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril
For the purposes of this writing, I look at an inability of one to engage in self-introspection along with the inability to engage in the silence needed to comprehend the thoughts and ideas of others as, in Sun Tzu’s words, “perilous.” If we use our practice of Silence to look only inward and we fail to absorb the wisdom of others, then we will successfully maintain a status quo. Combining the knowledge we gain of ourselves through self-understanding with the absorption of what we learn from others enhances our ability to create actions that will benefit ourselves as well as others.
I think of wealth not in terms of the ability to have or control lots of money, but rather to be able to live freely regardless of our income so long as we do not burden ourselves with debt or self-incurred obligations. I hope that contemplation will lead you to your own definition of wealth, whether it is a wealth of knowledge, kindness, generosity, or even the ability to live within your financial means and continue to make gains in what you save.
For this holiday season, I wish you the Silence you seek, and the renewal of purpose.