Saturday, August 21, 2010

Looking out of Windows

Scenes of boys looking out of windows in a film I recently saw continue to haunt me days after seeing it. The film was The Italian, a Russian movie about an orphan soon to be adopted by an Italian couple. Little Vanya, or "the Italian," as he is called in the orphanage where he lives, is determined to find his real mother before he is relocated. It suffices to say there is a happy ending in this unusual story of fierce love.

Like many people who are alone, Vanya spends time gazing out the window with a mixture of sadness and wistful longing. There are no words for such longing. Nor are there limits to the numbers of people who are no doubt looking out of windows on trains and planes, in houses and schoolrooms at this very moment. Perhaps much of what they are thinking can be expressed in words, but most of it is, I suspect, silent gazing, seemingly pointless.

I wonder if there could be enough silence in the world to drown out the noise, even for a minute.

I can't help but reflect on how many things in our universe operate silently yet how much of our time is spent in the midst of noise, both external and internal. The truth of the Word cannot be heard, T. S. Eliot wrote, because "there is not enough silence." Contemplative stillness, which is much more than the absence of sound, is desperately missing in our world.

So when we see someone in a reverie, looking at the light as it comes through a pane of glass, we must be grateful. We must be grateful for the paintings, like Vermeer's, where someone is caught off guard for a moment looking toward an open window. Or for the chance to catch a stranger silently looking beyond his or her surroundings and to know that it is not pointless.

We are arrested by such scenes perhaps because we recall those rare, savored moments of real silence in our own lives when we were fortunate enough to be able to pause in the rush of the day's events to gaze out of a window.

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