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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Quiet Game

I’m writing from Holland State Park on (where else but) the Lakeshore of West Michigan. The morning sun is trying to peek through a stand of White Pines, and I suspect by the time I finish this post it will crest the green steeple tips and be in my eyes. I'll hurry....

A few weeks ago, after writing so much about camping, we bought a nice pop-up from a private owner at a price that would make my father smile. (The pop-up has AC—which would make him laugh!) I took a day or two to fix the few minor issues that made it such a bargain, and, I must say, it looks great. I slept like a log last night. It’s been well over ten years since I woke up in a campground.

I don't remember campgrounds being so quiet. It’s after 8:00AM. I've been up for over an hour—taken a shower, etc...and so far, on the twenty-some occupied campsites in my view, I see only two other people awake: a man (zig-zagging a clothesline from tree to tree across the back of his site) and a zombie-like women heading toward the showers. Make that three—there goes a guy on a bike. Everyone is pleasant enough, but no one is talking. It’s as if we’re all playing the “Quiet Game.”

You know what the Quiet Game is, right parents? You’re the only adult in charge of a bunch of kids. You were either roped into the duty or volunteered the stint as a “fun parent” (or good uncle or aunt). Things are going well for a few hours, but without knowing it your patient parental supervision slipped into permissive tolerance (which is not the same thing),and then without warning your tolerance has reached its limit. It’s as if the incessant laughter, gleeful singing, and all the chatter in between has been steadily dripping into an imaginary glass balanced precariously on your head. You gently take the brimming glass in your hand and say with a fragile smile,
“I know... let’s play the Quiet Game.”

“There’s no such game!” pipes your most challenging charge.

“Oh, yes, there is. It’s the simplest and hardest game of all.”

“How can a game be simple and hard at the same time?” asks the second in command of the pecking order.

“Well the rules are simple, but the winning is hard—in fact, it might be way too hard of a game for kids your age.”

“No it’s not. We can do it.” They all chime in. “Tell us the rules. Tell us the rules.”

As the adult in charge, you then make up some rules. If this is a new concept to you, here are the one’s I developed years ago. “The rules are: No talking or touching; No laughing out loud or tickling; No clapping, snapping or causing sounds of any kind. Each of you must be totally quiet for as long as possible. The person who loses first has to sit in silence or he can’t play in the next round. If there are still more than one 'winners' after ten minutes, we break the tie by seeing who can quietly tell the most “sounds” they heard during the round. [Higher value may be given to sounds that they wouldn’t have heard had they not been very quiet.] Then we play round two. Ready? We’re going to start in ten seconds.” At this time, you begin counting backwards from ten and refuse taking questions. You then enjoy ten minutes of concentrated silence.

Properly conducted, this is an intriguing game. I was always amazed at how observant children of all ages become. Their ears perk up at a cricket’s chirp. Their questioning eyes are amazed that not all birdsongs are alike. After a few rounds, you’re blissfully unaware of the “tolerance glass,” but it’s empty again, and you can return to patient parental supervision (which is less subject to the "fed up" cycles of permissive tolerance.)

The Quiet Game was born of necessity (i.e. the need for sanity), but it is not a punishment. My kids loved it (and I’ve heard them creatively implement it now that they are adults). The game is a wonderful tool for teaching a discipline we all need to develop (regardless of our age).

We must never lose the ability to pause, to seal your lips, to not utter the thought that comes to mind, to study the countenance of those around us, to momentarily know the meaning of mute… to be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10) Take a moment for some quiet today....

In the past few minutes, the campground has awakened a few doors at a time. A dozen or more people have strolled by on the path. They’re not dressed in the normal sense of the word. It looks like they told their wrinkled shirt and shorts, “Hey, I’m going to the bathroom. If you want to come along, grab on.”

The ones returning from showers look a little more put together. Those on bikes are bright-eyed. But coming or going, everyone is still quiet. Glances glance; eyes glint; shy smiles fleet in passing. It’s the Quiet Game at its best, but I suspect the final round is nearly over.

The sun is now in my eyes. The girls are awake and giggling in the trailer behind me. So much for quiet. Time to rattle some pans and cook breakfast!
(posted later in the day)


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