The Countercultural Hospitality of Rest and Silence

Fox Credit: Hannes Flo (link below)

“I brought a stack of books to read while I’m here on retreat,” a young woman said to me.


^June Mears Driedger reads her piece as part of Geez Out Loud. The audio is an exact reading of the written article.

“It’s okay to set the books aside and take a nap,” I said. “Or spend time wandering in the woods soaking in the silence. Or just lollygag.”

She looked at me with shock as if I was suggesting something heretical. And I was. Rest and silence is heretical to the North American ethos where one’s value is based on consumer productivity and social media popularity. The United States culture considers working hard, pushing hard, and achieving hard to be noble qualities. Deep rest is countercultural; sinking into silence is unimaginable.

This conversation occurred at The Hermitage, a contemplative retreat centre in Southwest Michigan. At The Hermitage, guests are invited to receive the gifts of rest and silence. We offer a dissenting form of hospitality, a way of resisting the inhospitable dominant culture of noise, productivity, and consumerism.

We believe that as we rest, we unhook from the addiction of productivity and begin to see ourselves and the world differently than when we are distracted and fatigued.

When we offer one another the gift of silence, we eliminate idle talk and the compulsion to impress or please others. Silence allows us to be present to ourselves which develops our capacity for inner spaciousness. This inner spaciousness is then extended to others, creating relational hospitality and developing the countercultural Beloved Community.

June Mears Driedger is a writer and spiritual director at The Hermitage Community in Three Rivers, Michigan.

Image credit: “Fox,” December 23, 2016, Hannes Flo CC, flickr.com/hannesflo/40801888552

Issue 55

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 55, Winter 2020, Entertaining Angels.

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Issue 55, Winter 2020

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