The mage whose name was Silence

Who I am thinking about today is Ogion the Silent.  Do you know about him?  He is one of the wizards in Ursula le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea stories.  An interesting series; I believe she originally intended a trilogy, which she wrote and then after a lapse of some years tacked on a fourth book.  It had a different flavour from the first three, but had such treasures in it that I’m really glad she wrote it.  I think she went back and wrote a further volume later, which I haven’t read.

Anyway, Ogion the Silent was the teacher of the main hero in the first trilogy; we see him tantalisingly briefly but get to know a lot more about him in book four.

What he is, is basically a hermit mage.  Lives up a mountain very close to nature, saying almost nothing and doing humble routine chores and paying attention to animals, plants and birds, winds and weather and so on, getting wiser and humbler and kinder and more patient all the time.

A nose around online discovers that, in her book Tales of Earthsea, Ursula le Guin fills in something of his back story for us, in which it turns out that his given name is Silence.

That stopped me in my tracks.

How entirely wonderful, in taking up one’s vocation, to be given the name Silence.

So I rested in that imaginatively for a while and wondered if I could spend some time with Ogion the Silent – with the mage whose name is Silence – and maybe pick up a few better habits.

At church on Sunday our preacher was someone I esteem most highly; a man from whom I can actually see the Christlight shining.  He spoke to us about integrity, looking at teaching from the book of Deuteronomy and on Christian practice and character from the epistle of James, and then considering interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees.

He (our preacher not Jesus) spoke about hypocrisy being a disease – a pathological condition like an addiction – a small-mindedness that people get stuck in – obsessiveness really – assort of spiritual OCD.  And he said that small-mindedness, the ailment of the Pharisee, spoils our lives, spoils the joy God had in mind for us; and the hallmark of the indwelling of the Spirit is joy.

This all gave me a lot to think about, because I myself am small-minded, obsessive, inclined to over-preoccupation, and get stuck on minor details that matter to me immensely.  In fact before we even got home from church a mental/spiritual arrow caught me by surprise and lodged poisonous and barbed so deep in my vital organs that I still haven’t got it out properly. 

Because of what the preacher said I began to pay attention to my habit of small-minded Pharisee obsessing, but couldn’t see what to do about it really – it’s how I am.

And my feeling was that it has to do with concentration – intensification I mean – and the only thing I could think of that could allow it to disperse and relax is space and silence.

So then I began to think about Ogion the Silent – the mage whose name was Silence – and wondered if I could somehow apprentice myself to him.

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

And you?  What have you been thinking about?