The Silence in the Mind

The second section of R.S. Thomas’ Collected Later Poems entitled “Counterpoint (1990) is broken down into four parts: BC., Incarnation, Crucifixion, and AD, and, as in the previous section, each of the poems seems an integral part of the whole, best understood as a part of that whole.

That said, this poem from “AD” is one of my favorites:

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean
we launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

On one level, this is something I would expect from a Taoist or Buddhist, not a Christian for it clearly sounds like Thomas is advocating some form of meditation. On another level, referring to God as “the silence we call God” seems pretty revolutionary. People generally don’t like to think of God as being “silent;” they like to think of him as answering their prayers.

The idea that thoughts are an “armada” we launch against(?) God is probably even more revolutionary, though that idea is consistent with Thomas’s view that modern philosophy has undermined our faith in God.

But if God is, indeed, ubiquitous, omnipresent, we should be able to find him simply by standing still instead of frantically searching for him everywhere but where we are.