The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy Worldby John Francis
By the author of Planetwalker, The Ragged Edge of Silence takes us to another level of appreciating, through silence, the beauty of the planet and our place in it. John Francis's real and compelling prose forms a tapestry of questions and answers woven from interviews, stories, personal experience, science, and the power of silence through history, including practice by Native American, Hindu, and Buddhist cultures. Through their time-honored traditions and his own experience of communicating silently for 17 years, Francis's practical exercises lay the groundwork for the reader to build constructive silence into everyday life: to learn more about oneself, to set goals and accomplish dreams, to build strong relationships, and to appreciate and be a steward of the Earth. With its amazing human interest element and first-person expertise, this book is energizing and universally instructive.
- National Geographic Society
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Read an Excerpt
Silence, no matter how much we speak, is a necessary occurrence. Throughout the day, it dwells between our words and sentences. When we listen closely, the silence lays a fabric to clothe our thoughts, punctuated with words that linger on the tongue, until it finds its ragged edge. Silence, when held between us, is the most profound force in existence.
Still, I was afraid that while my parents thought my decision not to ride in motorized vehicles was merely eccentric, their reaction to my silence might be a little more severe. When I wrote to explain why I wouldn’t be calling for at least a year, my mother explained that my father would be coming to California immediately. They figured that either I had been entrapped by some California religious cult they had read about in Life magazine or I’d been imprisoned for
I suppose there was reason to fear. Synanon, a drug rehab group, had moved to Tomales Bay with shaved heads and talk of establishing the promised land; instead, they harassed local residents and stockpiled assault weapons while threatening anyone who disagreed with their philosophy. In southern California, the Manson family had gone on a killing spree. And then there were a half dozen other groups who promised salvation in one form or another, if only you would sign over all your worldly possessions.
Jean picked up my father at the airport and drove him to Inverness in her old blue VW van. She and my dad had met a few years earlier when I had taken her to Philadelphia. She had gotten sick and stayed in my old bedroom for a few days while I went to New York City to try to get a record contract for the music group I represented. My parents liked Jean, who had compelling stories of being black, white, and Native American, though they were a little concerned about her being 20 years older than I. Jean and Dad found me walking alone along the road that skirts
Tomales Bay and the San Andreas Fault. I was trying to get home from Point Reyes Station before they got there. The van stopped, and my father looked at me through the open window. We were both surprised to see each other out of the context of Philadelphia.
Fragrant laurel trees bent their heads in an arch and whispered in the wind above us. I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t have words, naturally. And my father and I no longer had that easy bond we had enjoyed when I was growing up.
Meet the Author
John Francis is founder and director of the non profit environmental education organization Planetwalk, and author of Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking, 17 Years of Silence (National Geographic Books, 2008). John has led environmental walks in many countries and consulted on environmental management and sustainable development. He travels the world speaking on pilgrimage and change. As a National Geographic Education Fellow, John is developing Planetlines, an environmental studies curriculum for grades K-12 and universities.
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