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Thought for the weekend: Silence helps us to find divinity

By Allen Sleith

Published 23/05/2015

Near the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia, USA there's a vast area of 13,000 sq miles called the National Radio Quiet Zone.

Above the wooded terrain there looms a dazzling white saucer called the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) which happens to be the planet's largest land-based movable object - taller, in fact, than the Statue of Liberty - comprising 2.3 acres of technological surface area.

The GBT is highly sensitive and is used to detect radio waves from the far reaches of the universe and milliseconds after its birth.

However, because those signals have travelled so far in time and space they can easily be drowned out.

Hence the need for the local area to be a Quiet Zone free of the damaging interference from mobile phones, baby monitors, microwave ovens and lots of other household technology.

As its business manager Mike Holstine puts it: "The telescope has the sensitivity equivalent to a billionth of a billionth of a millionth of a watt... the energy given off by a single snowflake hitting the ground - anything man-made would overwhelm that signal."

Tomorrow is Pentecost, recounted in Acts chapter 2. It's a strange overwhelming scene where the Holy Spirit breaks down the barriers of enmity, suspicion and division.

In a mysterious miracle that the New Testament doesn't attempt to explain, the peoples of many nations speaking in different languages are all able to understand what each is saying, a model of unity-in-diversity.

In that event of momentous transformation, there was a new openness to the ways of God, working through other people and, in turn, changing each of those involved.

That still holds true today: only as we seek to suppress the noise, the chatter, the clutter that we create ourselves, can we begin to make a conscious space, some silence and stillness, for the signals of divinity to get through to our souls.

As the quip goes - what have swimming pools and churches got in common? All the noise comes from the shallow end.

Belfast Telegraph

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