• Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) James Janecek
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Chapel
When we attend important events, we are usually reminded prior to the start to silence our cell phones. In combat operations, silence is often a critical tactic to prevent detection from the adversary. We are all taught that in an active shooter incident silence can be a lifesaver.

But there is another form of silence that is essential for our well-being, a silence that can only be found within us.

For centuries, religious and spiritual seekers have sought opportunities, typically places of solitude, in order to capture precious silent-filled experiences within the mind and heart. Men and women have traveled to caves in the Dead Sea of Israel, mountain tops in America, and remote islands in the Pacific to find places of solitude set apart from a noisy world. Even today in Europe, the signs of silence-seekers are spotted across the land in the form of medieval monasteries that have housed monks and nuns dedicated to prayerful solitude. While many Belgian Trappist brothers have brewed some of the best tasting beers to make a living, their main goal was to live a life of solitude that ensured plenty of silence in the mind and heart. In some locations in Europe, the monks and nuns continue this tradition of religious and spiritual life focused on silence in solitude.

In today's world, we live in the not-so-silent information age, an era where places of pure silence seem less and less present. In the midst of a culture addicted to busyness, our minds are often packed by incoming data from chatter-filled meetings, and our hearts flooded with messages from emails, smartphone texts, videos, movies, television shows, and news websites, not to mention the sounds from machinery such as automobiles, trains, and aircraft.

But the question remains, why do we need moments of silence within us?

Look at the normal life cycle of a fighter jet. Even if a jet could be given the equipment, supplies and manning for never-ending hot pits, sooner or later the jet would conk out. The engine has to be turned off for periods of downtime. The plane must escape into the solitude of a safe hangar for inspection and maintenance. The jet might even need to retreat into a more extensive phase period of silent engines. 

The inner life of each human being needs periods of silent solitude for introspection and maintenance as well. The quiet moments allotted to the mind and heart allow us to reflect on life, to perform an inspection checklist on life's deepest thoughts and feelings that can only be examined in a space full of silence. How is my life going? Am I in touch with the purpose and meaning of my life, and where is my place in this complex thing called existence? What are the basic beliefs, principles and values essential for me to sustain life as well as to experience lasting satisfaction and deep fulfillment?

Transitioning from the noise of the world to the quiet place of solitude to reflect on these profound questions is not a quick jump from one place to the next. Instead, it is a process that entails systematically shutting out distractions. 

You and I don't have to become monks and nuns living in a medieval monastery in Europe to grab periods of silence in solitude. We simply need to find a place and time, and more importantly the self-discipline, to routinely turn off the engines running in our minds and hearts so that we can have silence to hear, explore, and connect with the deeper answers to life's questions.

Just like a fighter jet needs downtime to maintain good condition to continue flying, we also need to give our minds and hearts time for silence in solitude to sustain our health and fitness.