By Jeremy Linneman

I Dream of a Quiet Man





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I Dream of a Quiet Man
By Jeremy Linneman • Issue #9 • View online
Nutrients for your spiritual life. An essay newsletter on spiritual formation, community, and culture.

We live in a wordy world. 
We are surrounded by words: Notifications illuminate our phones, text rolls across TV screens as another speaks, and words shout from street signs and billboards as we drive. Words everywhere
Our words hardly mean anything in a world like this. We pile up words, use clichés tirelessly, and fill even the briefest silences with rephrased phrases. I occasionally find myself using the same sentences again, hoping I haven’t said these very words to this very person. 
As a teaching pastor, frequent reader, and occasional writer, my life depends upon words. Or does it?  
Forty years ago, Henri Nouwen lamented the loss of silence in our wordy world. He noticed that any bit of silence makes us uncomfortable, nervous, and itchy. In The Way of the Heart, he prescribed a conversion of our silence. Our task is…
“Gently and carefully converting the empty silence into a full silence, the anxious silence into a peaceful silence, and the restless silence into a restful silence, so that in this converted silence a real encounter with the loving Father [can] take place.”
A contemplative, Nouwen gave his life to teaching silence—a bit of an oxymoron. Late in life, he gave up his teaching position at Yale to become chaplain to a community of disabled adults, and his hard-working words were now of little use. After teaching silence, it was finally forced upon him. 
A friend of mine recently pointed me to a poem. Wendell Berry, the Henry County, Kentucky farmer and award-winning writer, wrote these simple words. 
I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers 
are blooming, and who goes, 
and finds that he is smiling 
not by his own will.
I dream of a quiet man. Not a busy one, not an anxious one. Not even a clever one, a successful one, or a well-liked one. A quiet man is hard to find. 
The book of Ecclesiastes calls an abundance of words “the sacrifice of fools” (5:1) and invites us to let our words be few (5:2). “Many words mark the speech of a fool” (5:3). “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” (6:11). But “the quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools” (9:17). 
Why is it so difficult to be silent, especially in the presence of others—when we might explain everything and defend ourselves fiercely? As Richard Foster has written, “Silence is intimately related to trust.” Silence in solitude builds our trust in the eternal Word and our strong Defender. Silence among others builds trust with them—as we listen first, seek understanding, and speak only what is most appropriate. 
Like the man in Berry’s imagination, we might be surprised what we find in quietude. We might remember where the rarest wildflowers are blooming, and not just remember, but go. And perhaps, we might even find ourselves smiling—the relaxed, trusting state of the closed mouth. 
I dream of a quiet man.
Three Good Reads: Wendell Berry
People occasionally ask, “If I’ve never read Wendell Berry, where do I begin?”
There’s a Three Good Reads for that.
1. Start with his nonfiction, probably It All Turns On Affection, which comes from his prestigious Jefferson Lecture. Affection describes the boomer and the sticker and our need to listen to the stickers again. (Second in the nonfiction category is The Unsettling of America.)
2. His fiction comes next, and in the Port William Series, my personal favorite, and the namesake of basically everything I’ve ever named, is Fidelity.
3. And finish with his poetry, probably the Collected Poems one and two.
Wait, was that five good reads? That’s the kind of value you get here at GOOD SOIL.
Fidelity Sports: NBA Preview
While St. Patrick Mahomes II is recovering from a dislocated kneecap, we can hit pause on our usual Chiefs commentary and welcome the return of planet earth’s greatest treasure, the National Basketball Association (NBA).
After a wild offseason, wherein Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up with the Clippers, LeBron gave up 20 years of draft picks to bring Anthony Davis to the Lakers, Brooklyn landed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and the Warriors landed… D'Angelo Russell?, this season is as wide-open as it gets in the League.
Thankfully, Fidelity Sports is here to break it all down for you.
In the East, aka Junior Varsity, aka the E-League, the two top teams are the Bucks and Sixers, and they’ll finish 1 and 2. I like the Celtics coming in at #3 and with the Nets, Raptors, Heat, Magic, and Hawks filling out the playoffs. No doubt, the Sixers star-heavy, confusing rotation will self-destruct by summer break, and the Bucks will roll into the Finals.
The West is, once again, stacked. The Clippers are the early favorites; they were sneaky good last year and after adding the #2 player in the League (Kawhiet Killer) and the league’s best 3-and-D player (PG13), they will be tough. Teams will come out every night giving them their best shot, and the Clips will have their guys on minutes restrictions, so I give them the 2 seed at best. The Lakers are overrated, LeBron is old, Davis is injury-prone, and their fourth best player is Avery Bradley; I’m going with them at #6. And until we know more about Steph Curry’s hand injury, it’s hard to place them, so I’ll go with #7, which is probably BCS.
So, let’s reverse engineer this thing: 8. Mavs, 7. Warriors, 6. Lakers, 5. Rockets, 4. Blazers, 3. Jazz, 2. Clippers… and #1?
I am ALL IN on the Denver Nuggets. Jokic is the League’s best center, Jamaal Murray is an All-Star, Paul Millsap has three decades of playoff experience, and of course, they have my boy Michael Porter, Junior. He hasn’t played in the first four games, presumably because they are saving his energy for when it really counts, because check out these preseason stats, per 40 minutes:
22.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 55.2% FG
He’s a star, folks. And I’ve got the Nuggets over the Bucks in Seven.
After all that player movement, get ready for a small-market midwestern Finals.
Benediction: A Blessing for the Road
Some sweet Jesus lyrics for your journey:
King of Kings, Lord of Lords, all the things He has in store / From the rich to the poor, all are welcome through the door…
And I know, I know God is the force that picked me up / I know Christ is the fountain that filled my cup
I know God is alive, yeah / He has opened up my vision
Giving me a revelation / This ain’t ‘bout a damn religion / Jesus brought a revolution
All the captives are forgiven / Time to break down all the prisons
Yep, that’s Kanye. My boy went and dropped and gospel album, and if you were surprised, you haven’t been paying attention. 15 years after College Dropout, still, Jesus walks.
Thanks for reading GOOD SOIL. See you again in two weeks.
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Jeremy Linneman

Nutrients for your spiritual life. An essay newsletter on spiritual formation, community, and culture.

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