Many things come back to me in this season and today I recalled this excerpt from Josef Pieper’s memoir No One Could Have Known. In it, Pieper recalls, amidst his adventurous student days, making a thirty-day silent retreat.
What awaited me, as one of a group of fifteen to twenty companions was precisely that kind of “initiation” into adulthood that, at the age of twenty-one, I needed: reflection, in complete silence, on the fundamentals of my own existence. Often enough, when I tell people about this, they shake their heads in disbelief, or even in horror, and ask me how it was possible to endure that kind of thing, and for thirty days! Nowadays let no one dare suggest that youngsters should put up with even three days of silence! This timidity seems to me just as absurd as if one were to say to someone: Listen very carefully; but of course, if you want to, while you are doing it, you can look through a magazine or whistle a tune. ‘Reason’ comes from ‘perceiving’ and no one can perceive anything unless he is quiet; only the silent person can hear things.