I work in a busy office. It made me think today of C.S. Lewis's 1945 novel, That Hideous Strength, and the contrast between busyness and stillness depicted therein. Daily life, at the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments (NICE), is a whirligig of projects, plans, and never-ending administrative and technical hustle and bustle. Time races by chaotically. For the community gathered at St. Anne's on the Hill, on the other hand, there is no work at all to be done, save the cooking of food and the maintenance of the house and grounds. There is time a-plenty to talk, read, watch, pray, or simply rest. There is a fecund, fertile silence at work. St. Anne's is a 'house of the best' in Kathleen Raine's phrase; a 'conservative' house in the widest sense of the word. It conserves, preserves, nourishes and restores what is beautiful good and true.
The Daily Telegraph, to give a contemporary example of this contrast, masquerades as a conservative newspaper but is in reality nothing of the sort. It belongs more to Belbury (the NICE's headquarters) than St. Anne's. Its headlines of late have been dominated by speculation on Britain's level of access to the EU's single market and the possibility of a trade deal with the US. These things have their place but they should never become a nation's prime focus. There will not be a spiritual renaissance in this country until we learn to divest ourselves of this obsession with growth and quantity - with pounds, shillings and pence. Napoleon's jibe about England being a nation of shopkeepers rings painfully true at times.
What we need is for a great hush to descend, in our minds and in the world, and a season of watching and waiting to begin - like Advent, like pregnancy - a radical stillness and decluttering - creating space within so that we can hear the only thing we need to tune into at this time - the distant but approaching hum of the Great Music - the wild, thrumming call of the Divine that frees us from the drudgery of Economics and the illusion of limitless activity and growth.