Monday, 3 September 2012

The mage whose name was Silence

Who I am thinking about today is Ogion the Silent.  Do you know about him?  He is one of the wizards in Ursula le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea stories.  An interesting series; I believe she originally intended a trilogy, which she wrote and then after a lapse of some years tacked on a fourth book.  It had a different flavour from the first three, but had such treasures in it that I’m really glad she wrote it.  I think she went back and wrote a further volume later, which I haven’t read.

Anyway, Ogion the Silent was the teacher of the main hero in the first trilogy; we see him tantalisingly briefly but get to know a lot more about him in book four.

What he is, is basically a hermit mage.  Lives up a mountain very close to nature, saying almost nothing and doing humble routine chores and paying attention to animals, plants and birds, winds and weather and so on, getting wiser and humbler and kinder and more patient all the time.

A nose around online discovers that, in her book Tales of Earthsea, Ursula le Guin fills in something of his back story for us, in which it turns out that his given name is Silence.

That stopped me in my tracks.

How entirely wonderful, in taking up one’s vocation, to be given the name Silence.

So I rested in that imaginatively for a while and wondered if I could spend some time with Ogion the Silent – with the mage whose name is Silence – and maybe pick up a few better habits.

At church on Sunday our preacher was someone I esteem most highly; a man from whom I can actually see the Christlight shining.  He spoke to us about integrity, looking at teaching from the book of Deuteronomy and on Christian practice and character from the epistle of James, and then considering interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees.

He (our preacher not Jesus) spoke about hypocrisy being a disease – a pathological condition like an addiction – a small-mindedness that people get stuck in – obsessiveness really – assort of spiritual OCD.  And he said that small-mindedness, the ailment of the Pharisee, spoils our lives, spoils the joy God had in mind for us; and the hallmark of the indwelling of the Spirit is joy.

This all gave me a lot to think about, because I myself am small-minded, obsessive, inclined to over-preoccupation, and get stuck on minor details that matter to me immensely.  In fact before we even got home from church a mental/spiritual arrow caught me by surprise and lodged poisonous and barbed so deep in my vital organs that I still haven’t got it out properly. 

Because of what the preacher said I began to pay attention to my habit of small-minded Pharisee obsessing, but couldn’t see what to do about it really – it’s how I am.

And my feeling was that it has to do with concentration – intensification I mean – and the only thing I could think of that could allow it to disperse and relax is space and silence.

So then I began to think about Ogion the Silent – the mage whose name was Silence – and wondered if I could somehow apprentice myself to him.

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

And you?  What have you been thinking about?


Anonymous said...

Being silent while Our Lord shows us what needs to be changed, is something that I am going through at the moment my friend.

Being convicted, even though it is painful, is truly a blessing in disguise. He wants us to notice these items about ourselves, so as best to see HIM in us!

How sad it is to come out of Worship services and find ourselves with our nature showing instead of His Shinning Light.

Thank you for sharing my always, I leave filled to the brim.


Ember said...

Waving! x

Julie said...

I wish I could have sat under the welcome and needed words of that sermon. I love silence but I need conversation now and then too. Small minded ....yes, guilty.

What am I thinking about? Getting the dried whole wheat pizza dough out from under my fingernails.

Grand thoughts are not mine today.


Wimmera said...

By writing the following words: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), the Psalmist David reveals what happens when “silence” becomes a natural part of our daily life.

Ember said...

Julie - oooh yes, that's EXACTLY the kind of thing that keeps Pharisees awake at night! xx

Hi Wimmera - that's so true! xx

Bean said...

Time alone spent in silence is precious, I find that I need it more and more as the years pass. I enjoy being together with family and friends of course, but I also enjoy solitude. A quiet morning spent in the garden weeding, a walk, simply working around the house in silence, sitting and reading the bible, time spent in prayer, these times of silence are necessary for me.


Ember said...


Rebecca said...

Well...having read this, I'm thinking it's (generally) a good thing that I seem to crave and surround myself with so much silence.

It seems to me that I require at LEAST equal times of silence/solitude to the times I spend with "my public"--sometimes possibly double.

"Saying almost nothing and doing humble routine chores....getting wiser and humbler and kinder and more patient all the time" is a description of myself that I aspire to. (I think that is something I will never observe in myself...hopefully someone else might be able to say it about me one day.)

Ember said...


Paula said...

I thought of Johannes de Silentio, the pseudonym that Soren Kierkegaard employed as the author of Fear and Trembling. (...Meaning that the position "Johannes" took in the work wasn't necessarily Kierkegaard's own position... or was one aspect of his philosophy.)

Silent John

Ember said...

:0) Hi friend x

gail said...

Hello Ember,
It seems as I get older I'm craving silence more.
I've been thinking a lot about loving others lately and sometimes I find it doesn't come easily to me. I like most people but haven't quite got the love bit yet. Of course it's easy to love family and friends but the person I don't know ; well it's difficult.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and how you manage it.
I'm just rereading "In celebration of Simplicity" and I'm loving it as much as I did the first time I read it.
Blessings Gail

Ember said...

Gail, that's most interesting! We had a long discussion on this very topic in our household yesterday morning. Yes, I'll write down some of my thoughts about that and see what friends here have to say. x