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Wisdom in quiet cogitation

23 December 2011


ADAM FORD’s Seeking Silence in a Noisy World: The art of mindful solitude (Leaping Hare Press, £7.99 (£7.20); 978-1-908005-11-3) is beautifully produced and engaging, and well worth its price.

The author, who once was young but who now is not so young, gives us the wisdom of a life’s experience of exploring silence in a variety of situations and contexts. Throughout his ministry — as a priest running boisterous youth clubs, as a school chaplain, as a priest in ordinary — he has taken up opportunities for silence. Now, in retirement, he shares with us the fruits of his exploration.

The book is a gentle perambulation around a strong centre. Each of the chapters takes the reader a little deeper. They cover a wide range of both core and peripheral issues. Each sounds true to personal experience. Mistakes and pitfalls are not ignored. His own “stumbling journey” forms the shape of the book, which ends with his acknowledgement that the natural world helps him most of all.

But this does not mean that he ignores or excludes experiences learned from Christians and, indeed, those of other faiths. He writes of retreats, of “extreme silence” such as is found in some monastic communities, of “the dark side of silence”, and of “handling noise”.

It is an easy book to “speed-read”, but this would do it less than justice. He writes ecumenically — interfaith, indeed — and tells many expressive stories from his experience and travels. (And he is a well-travelled man.) He deals with thorny issues: the challenges, the pitfalls, and the evil, for instance, that can arise as a consequence of seeking solitude and silence. There is a wide-ranging bibliography at the end of the book.

I much appreciated reading it, and gladly commend it.

John Armson

Canon Armson is a former Precentor of Rochester Cathedral.

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