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Have you ever been in such a large or vocal group that it was impossible to get a word in edgewise? Ever said something among a group of co-workers that scarcely got a response—only to see everyone glom onto the same idea when someone else repeated it later?

These are the times that make me envious of the cloistered Carmelite Order of nuns. In four hours of solitary meditation and prayer—two hours in the morning and two more at night—at least they accomplish something every day. At least they know someone is listening.

In their practice of continual prayer, contemplation and service, the Carmelite nuns have been a wonder to me since I was a student in Terre Haute, Indiana where the Carmelite Order founded The Carmel of St. Joseph monastery in 1947. Among the traits that make them special: they live in complete silence—except when they sing. In a world filled with so much blah, blah, blah, it sounds heavenly (pardon the pun) to be off the hook as far as speech goes.

Start with your self
I don’t mean to be irreverent, but I think I might miss choosing what to wear each day—not that I’m thinking of joining the Carmelites, but this summer, I have decided to make more time for prayer and contemplation. Like all good changes, greater discipline in one area means less in another. If you’re a frequent reader, you might notice that I’m blogging a little less often. Here’s why: in that quiet space, blogging only seems worthwhile if it truly adds something to the universe.

Incline your ear
And what would add something to the universe? One of my elderly friends calls her 95-year-old sister every day. At 95, her sister can’t hear very well, so my friend mostly listens to a recap of her day—which can’t be too eventful at 95. Even so, it must mean a lot that someone cares enough to listen.

In our culture, it’s hard to remember this: real transformations often begin with stillness—not with action, speech or busy-ness. Whatever you’re doing this summer, I hope you find time for reflection—and time to lend an ear toward someone who needs it. Listening has become almost old-fashioned, but it’s still very much needed in this world.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.


P.S. This post reminded me of Karen Joy Fowler’s new book, We Are All Just Completely Beside Ourselves—a book that’s on my reading list after hearing the author interviewed on the Diane Rehm Show. “I conceived of the novel as being all about language, who talks and who doesn’t,” Fowler says. “Who is heard and who isn’t. What can be said and by whom, and what can’t be.”

The book is inspired by two real scientists who try to raise a chimpanzee during the 1930s—side by side with their own children. The main character, one of the couple’s children, becomes almost completely silent as an adult.

The photo at the top of this post was one I took on a recent visit to the Botanical Conservatory in Fort Wayne, Indiana—a must see if you’re headed to Fort Wayne.