Recently, I found myself with an extra hour in an unknown town. I took a ride and for some reason my head snapped in the direction of one of the hundreds of strip malls. I almost dismissed my head turning, because after all, there is rarely anything I want in the strip malls, save milk. This time though, I looked again, sure enough, there was a paperback bookstore, trading the old and still slightly new. What the heck, it was the Friday before Memorial Day, what better time to stock up on books, and cheaply at that…
I wandered in and was enchanted that I didn’t know my way around. They were kind enough to stick up index cards to show me the way. It took me quite a few minutes to even notice the index cards, let alone to understand they were showing me the way.
I wandered up and down and in circles, looking at my watch, afraid time had converted in that small shop and I would find myself late for a meeting that I actually had arrived early for just moments before.
I touched books, at first slightly recoiling, wondering who touched them before me, what they thought, why they picked the book to begin with….it didn’t occur to me how many people touch the books first that I claim as my own when I am in a store full of “new” books. For some reason, I felt it more strongly in this store, felt a true love of reading, felt so many desires, hopes, questions from other minds rushing out at me as I looked for my own answers.
I came across a tattered copy of “An Autobiography or The Story of my experiments with the truth”, by M. K. Gandhi. At first I didn’t want it, I felt the presence of the prior reader or readers too strongly and as I flipped through the pages and saw highlights on certain passages, I put the book down. I didn’t want someone else telling me what was most important inside of what could only be all important.
I went back to the shelf, it was only $6.99 and everything was further on sale by 50%. Ok, I had to get over myself and simply buy the book and forget about the past, the prior ownership.
Today, I sat waiting in Court for a case to be called. Surprise, I arrived early on a day full of the aftermath of another State’s tropical rains. I sat hunched on what should have been a church pew in an old forgotten historical building and I opened the book I had already begun to read and came upon a passage that made so much sense to me, more so because I am an attorney paid to speak:
“I must say that, beyond occasionally exposing me to laughter, my constitutional shyness has been no disadvantage whatever. In fact I can see that, on the contrary, it has been all to my advantage. My hesitancy in speech, which was once an annoyance, is now a pleasure. Its greatest benefit has been that it has taught me the economy of words. I have naturally formed the habit of re[-]straining my thoughts. And I can now give myself the certificate that a thoughtless word hardly ever escapes my tongue or pen. I do not recollect ever having had to regret anything in my speech or writing. I have thus been spared many a mishap and waste of time. Experience has taught me that silence is part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth. Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. A man of few words will rarely be thoughtless in his speech, he will measure every word. We find so many people impatient to talk. There is no chairman of a meeting who is not pestered with notes for permission to speak. And whenever the permission is given the speaker generally exceeds the time-limit, asks for more time, and keeps on talking without permission. All this talking can hardly be said to be of any benefit to the world. It is so much waste of time. My shyness has been in reality my shield and buk[-]ler. It has allowed me to grow. It has helped me in my discern[-]ment of truth.”
I often reflect upon the benefit of silence, not only for myself, allowing space for my soul to step in where my mind has mucked up the space, but also, the benefit to others, even though at first they may find my silence an affront.
Ironic, on the back of the book I have, there is a quote:
“I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.” M. K. Gandhi
Yet, the practice of truth and non-violence is still regarded as new when we look at the world we continue to live in day by day.