November 27, 2008
Sara Maitland, Silence, Leonard Cohen and that Monky Business
Despite the Crunch I find myself still obsessed with property-porn - those bits in the weekend papers where they show you pics of beautiful little houses you can't afford in interesting places you've never been to. In particular, I look out for crofts on isolated Scottish islands, even though if I were ever to live in such a place, I would go insane quicker than you can skin a sporran. All of which goes some way towards explaining my obsession with a new book by Sara Maitland. I didn't really know her work before, but this socialist/feminist/christian has spent the last few years in search of silence, culminating in building a small house in the middle of the moors of Galloway, where she seeks to spend 80% of her time in total solitude and silence. Anyway, she's written a book about it and you can read a chunk of it here. Alternatively (or additionally?), there's a nice piece about the bothies of Galloway here, complete with photos (one of which I've stolen and used here, tut tut).
I'm not sure what fascinates me about the idea of silence. I remember reading a piece about Leonard Cohen when he was a Buddhist monk (I think I just found it here (you may notice a preponderance of links from the Guardian newspaper group here, which tells its own story)) and being transfixed by the idea that he had retreated up a mountain to serve a Buddhist master, even though I hate getting up in the morning, hate doing as I'm told and am a mouthy bastard at the best of times. What is it then? Just escapism, I guess, although I suppose it's possible that in the consumption of others' silence as Alt.LIfestyle there's some deeper need that I should be addressing (earplugs?). Not ready for a monastery yet, though, I don't think. Oh, and while we're on monks, here's a quote from Thelonious: "Wrong is right". Ya know dat.