El tema central de este Blog es LA FILOSOFÍA DE LA CABAÑA y/o EL REGRESO A LA NATURALEZA o sobre la construcción de un "paradiso perduto" y encontrar un lugar en él. La experiencia de la quietud silenciosa en la contemplación y la conexión entre el corazón y la tierra. La cabaña como objeto y método de pensamiento. Una cabaña para aprender a vivir de nuevo, y como ejemplo de que otras maneras de vivir son posibles sobre la tierra.

viernes, 4 de mayo de 2012

Sara Maitland. El largo camino del silencio

Sara Maitland house

Sara Maitland has been living alone for the last 10 years
© Photo: Adam Lee Photography - http://www.adamleephotography.com/welcome.htm

I wanted to explore what this profound pull towards silence might be about. I wanted to examine my conviction that silence was something positive, not just an abstraction or absence. I wanted to know what would happen. In the end I rented a self-catering holiday cottage on Skye.
-Sara Maitland

Sara Maitland's house on a wild moor in northern Galloway, before renovation
© Photo: Adam Lee Photography - http://www.adamleephotography.com/welcome.html

A Book of Silence, by Sara Maitland
(London: Granta, 2008; Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009)

Sara Maitland skillfully weaves a history of silence and solitude over the centuries with an autobiographical account of her own encounters with silence at her Weardale home, on the Scottish isle of Skye, in the Egyptian desert of St. Anthony, and in the isolated moors of southwestern Scotland where she finally settles. The work is honest, intense, and humane. Maitland's grasp of the subject and its literature, and her own observations of herself and her environs in silence and solitude are fresh and compelling. Maitland writes clearly and engagingly. Plus bibliographical notes and an index make rereading and further exploration easy. A Book of Silence is bound to be a hallmark on the subject.
The book opens with a summary of Maitland's own London and Oxford University upbringing, her mix of intellect, feminism, literary creativity, and religious sentiment. She sets the tone of the book as an adventure on which the reader will want to accompany the author:
In the summer of 2000 I moved north to County Durham, to a house on a moor high about Weardale. I was eager and greedy. I wanted both to be silent and to think about silence. I set out to hunt silence and I have been doing so ever since.
Weardale (in Northumbria, England) becomes Maitland's base camp for the subsequent explorations. Chapter 2, "Forty Days and Forty Nights," describes her stay on the Scottish isle of Skye. Amidst the natural grandeur and silence, Maitland records life in fascinating detail, highlighted by reflections on voice-hearing in natural sounds, changing bodily sensations, and chronicles of solitary mountaineers and sailors. Maitland pays careful attention to the phenomena of silence itself, and how solitude elicits "an extraordinary rhythmical sequence of emotions."
Chapter 3 is "The Dark Side," that is, the psychological side of silence, the reality of surviving in a harsh environment, and accidie, the spiritual lethargy that attacks hermits. Chapter 4, "Silence and the Gods," discusses creation myths from Genesis to the Big Bang. Where non-Western stories see creation evolve from silence, Western myths insist on a loud noise that shatters the nothingness. The initial bang has evolved to noise pollution in the modern world. Western insistence on logos as word pits silence, dreams, and mystery against language, psychology, and meaning.
In Chapter 5, "Silent Places," Maitland notes how exploring silence heightens attention to nature and detail: clouds, birds, stars, wind. She learns to distinguish birds along shorelines and near islands, appreciating the feat of intrepid Celtic monks of antiquity who set out on dangerous seas in tiny boats. Maitland contrasts the evocation of the sea with forests, always historical sources of primordial fear, of Freud's heimlich unheimlich, the uncanny. From here Maitland ranges to fairy tales, linguistics, and the politics of silence.
Chapter 6 is "Desert Hermits," recording Maitland's journey to Sinai for a desert retreat. She writes chiefly of the desert hermits and their spirituality. Chapter 7 is "The Bliss of Solitude." In the desert, Maitland had sought the silence of self-effacement. In chapter 7, she pursues solitude as formative to expression, for she wonders where her creative skill (writing) will next take her given her desire for silence. Inspired by the English Romantics, Maitland pursues walking and climbing in Galloway (southwestern Scotland).
Maitland's forte is her discussion of the Romantic movement. She owns that "on my Galloway walks I took not The Sayings of the Desert Fathers but Wordsworth's Prelude." She notes how older eremitic views of silence emphasize emptying, while the Romantics used silence and nature to strengthen the ego against society. The sad history of the Highlands enclosures, however, shows how fragile is culture's hold on silence and well-being. Maitland is left unresolved, wanting to be both a "silence dweller" and a "silence writer."
In the final chapter, "Coming Home," the author buys an old shepherd's cottage in Galloway. She settles on an 80/20 silence, plugging into phone and internet 20% of the time, doing away with appliances that make noise, praying and meditating 3 hours daily, descending into a composite silence based on experiences related in the book. The fiction writer in Maitland wants to find new expression, while enjoying all of wild nature and the silence. "I am finding it hard to finish this book, because I don't feel that I am at the end of anything," Maitland concludes.
Nor will the reader want to finish the book, either, without hope of a sequel some years hence.
reviewed 2010 ¶

A Book of Silence, by Sara Maitland

From the dust jacket
In her late forties, after a noisy upbringing as one of six children and an adulthood as a vocal feminist and mother, Sara Maitland found herself living alone in the country….Maitland describes how she set out to explore this new love, spending periods of silence in the Sinai desert, the Scottish hills, and a remote cottage on the Isle of Skye….Her story culminates in her building a hermitage on an isolated moor in Galloway.

Maitland finds her experiences both euphoric and dark, mirrored in the stories of others who have encountered silence—from explorers and mystics to long-distance sailors….She delves deep into the rich cultural history of silence, exploring its significance in fairy tale and myth, its importance to Western and Eastern religious traditions, and its use of psychoanalysis and artistic expression....She evokes a sense of peace that includes the reader in its intimate tranquility.

Selected quotes from the book
• It is quite hard in retrospect to remember which came first—the freedom of solitude or the energy of silence. 

• I began to realize that it was not peace and contentment that I craved, but that awed response to certain phenomena of the ‘natural’ world in which words, and even normal emotional reaction, fail or rather step away from the experience and there is a silence that is powerful, harsh and essentially inhumane. 

• I discovered in myself a longing for the sublime, for an environment that, rather than soothing me, offered some raw, challenging demands in exchange for grandeur and ineffability. 
• I find praying difficult, challenging and very hard work, but I also find it necessary, surprisingly lovely and crucially important...It became, and remains, one of the central reasons why I went hunting for silence, and why I am now sitting in the sunshine looking down a long silent valley. 
• Silence had already begun to teach me to listen and hear better, but now I also wanted it to help me to look and see better. 
• You have to wait. This sense of waiting in silence became even more marked when I advanced to sitting in a hide or under a drystone wall and paying attention to nothing in the hope that it would at any moment become a bird, become something.


Sara Maitland admires the view over the hills in Galloway, Scotland. Photograph: Adam Lee
(Sara Maitland admira las vistas sobre las colinas de Galloway, Escocia. Fotografía: Adam Lee) 

(...) I left in the 1960s when I was 18, seeking adventure and 'real life'. I found both, but more than 35 years later I came home. The same things that caused me to leave called me back again: the beauty, the isolation and the silence. Last year I moved into my self-built cottage on an austere moor, where hen harriers hunt, curlews cry and barn owls flourish. The clean air and low light pollution make for fully dark nights, and for extraordinary stars. There is a remarkable range of flora and fauna, and there is miles and miles of huge, silent nothing. I love it.
I have taken to walking alone. There are delights in walking with friends, but walking alone has particular charms. It offers an enormous freedom - freedom of time and pace, freedom to stop and start, to go further or to go home. There is an intensity when you do not dissipate experience in words: you travel more quietly, and see more.(...)
Sara MaitlandThe Observer, Sunday 9 November 2008. Article history

Bothy médico, Uist
Fotografía: Adam Lee

(...) La casa acababa de ser terminada... (...) en un entorno increíble. El interior es a la vez hermoso y funcional, con una serie de características - especialmente los suelos de madera y una escalera de caracol de hierro forjado - uso de materiales reciclados, y fuera un cobertizo frente a vistas enormes. Su distinción especial es que está fuera de la red: la energía se genera in situ mediante paneles fotovoltaicos y un aerogenerador pequeño (150 vatios por hora en verano que se almacenan en baterías... un ordenador portátil que utiliza 70W por hora y la iluminación de la habitación de la cabaña de 12w. El agua es calentada por una estufa de carbón,  la cocina y el frigorífico son de gas. Debido a la limitación del inversor, no se pueden utilizar aparatos como la plancha, el hervidor de agua, consolas de juegos por ordenador.) (...) Éste no puede ser un lugar para aquellos que necesitan del lujo moderno, pero a mí me convenía. Me gustaba tener a las vacas que inspeccionaran a través de las ventanas, la noche a la luz de las velas, y el suave resplandor de la luz de la luna.(...)
Sara Maitland The Observer, Sunday 27 June 2010. Article history

© Photo: Adam Lee Photography - http://www.adamleephotography.com/welcome.htm

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