Heathrow Blight Reminds Us That Silence Is Sacred ; If the Airport Acquires Two More Runways, Londoners Will Find Peace Only in Monastic Retreats and Churches

By MacCulloch, Diarmaid | The Evening Standard (London, England), April 3, 2013 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Heathrow Blight Reminds Us That Silence Is Sacred ; If the Airport Acquires Two More Runways, Londoners Will Find Peace Only in Monastic Retreats and Churches


MacCulloch, Diarmaid, The Evening Standard (London, England)


BAD news from Heathrow. If a third or even a fourth runway goes ahead, up to two million more people may expect to have their ears assaulted by the noise of planes landing and taking off. On your flight in, it all looks so peaceful down there, as you circle over London spotting the O2 dome and Buckingham Palace, until you realise that you're sitting in your seat amid a constant roar, and that the same roar is multiplied for those below for around 1,300 arrivals and departures daily.

How much more noise are we prepared to put up with as the price for a society based on an abundance of creature comforts and fast travel? That question has got steadily more urgent ever since the first crude and clanky steam engines started off the Industrial Revolution, back in the 18th century.

Before then, the loudest continuous noises that we Westerners could create were actually the property of the Christian Church: the sound of church bells, or of the pipeorgan inside the church building. Johann Sebastian Bach was the worst noise pollution you could expect to suffer. Now that Mammon has taken over from God in making loud noises, perhaps it's time for us to see what God may have to offer in the way of silence.

Judaism and Christianity have not always been very appreciative of silence. When the ancient Israelites started thinking about their One God, they generally met him amid lots of noise: he brought Creation into being with words, he repeatedly spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he often emphasised what he had to say with a good deal of thunder and lightning (especially when he was feeling cross).

True, one prophet, Elijah, heard him as a "still small voice", but even there, some spoilsport biblical critics have suggested that originally the text read a "thunderous or crushing and roaring sound", until a scribe copied down the Hebrew characters wrongly and gave us that famous phrase about stillness.

The Psalms often link silence to dumb idols, which are not a good thing, and most ancient folk were suspicious of silent prayer: after all, what have those who are silently praying got to hide? Similarly, the early Christians whom we meet in the letters of Paul of Tarsus were a noisy bunch, always crowding together to listen to sermons, or to shout out praises or songs -- or indeed, to have a good quarrel. There are modern Christians like that.

What is there on the other side? There is Jesus. He picked up what you might call a "minority report" in the Hebrew Scripture (the Old Testament), which saw silence as holy. He identified with the character in the book of Isaiah called the "Suffering Servant", who was dumb when he was led to the slaughter. So Jesus was silent at significant points in his trial before he was crucified; he didn't seize the chance to grandstand at this moment of crisis. Before that, he had retreated from the adoring crowds into the wilderness, to wrestle with the presence of evil.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Heathrow Blight Reminds Us That Silence Is Sacred ; If the Airport Acquires Two More Runways, Londoners Will Find Peace Only in Monastic Retreats and Churches
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?