The Alchemy of Money
Walks & Sparks
The River and the Silence

The River and the Silence

“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.” ― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don't much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go. ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

What is the price of being stuck?

What is the price of walking without knowing where you want to go?

What is the price of a lack of space for your intuition?

What is the price of being disconnected from the wisdom of your soul?

The answer is everything. The answer is silence.

In early 2020, I spent a lot of time walking the river promenade on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I’d just been let go from my job and the city was under lockdown. The streets were as empty as the ruins of my career. I could feel the first gusts of the cold wind of millennial middle age approaching.

I felt stranded and lost. Nothing was working and I had no idea what to do. I was completely stuck.

Watching the river was better than staring at the walls of my studio apartment and I could feel it was trying to tell me something — but I didn’t know how to listen.

I was longing for the river’s treasure, but I didn’t know how to pay its price.

the East River near the United Nations, 2020

I argued that the opposite of a dead culture must be an alive one. We must seek a connection to the source of life, a place to be in flow. This may sound like an appeal to get busy, to start walking. Quite the opposite. For the wasteland is endless and walking aimlessly will lead you in circles, right back to your pod.

To find an oasis, we must follow the birds, which is another way of saying that we must listen to the subtle song surrounding us.

This is not an easy thing to do, for the wasteland is lifeless but not quiet. Its plains drown in noise and its air is buzzing with static. Its canyons carry a steady hum of infinite chatter. The wasteland is a profitable playground of distraction that separates us from ourselves and other people.

I used to be a content junkie.

Go for a walk, step on the subway, do the dishes, wait at the airport, you name it. Every moment was an opportunity to indulge my mind.

Podcasts, books, music, Substacks, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. I was blissfully entertained at all times.

My mind was a busy place and I spent a lot of time walking in the wasteland.

I heard no birds. I met no prophets. No river sang to me.

Love speaks in silence
Not in the rote words of schools
or the cries of the marketplace.

Gold gathers in silence.

No more words.
Rising sun, you release us
from the guards, the thieves,
the nights within us and without

Rumi (in the beautiful translation by Haleh Liza Gafori)

Leaving the wasteland demands a price we don’t think we can afford: time in a space of sacred stillness.

Time spent doing nothing but listening, observing, being present.

This is a time that doesn’t look productive, that doesn’t have economic value, and that does not entertain us.

This time doesn’t create, doesn’t earn, and doesn’t make for content to impress others. Any attempt to capture it ruptures its fabric, destroys its magic.

It’s a time of paradox. The smarter, more ambitious, and more curious you are — the more your mind dominates your experience — the more challenging this space can be. Because time in silence is anything but.

Sitting in silence may look like doing nothing, but you and I know what storms can rage behind closed eyes. Outer silence easily betrays an inner concert of a thousand broken strings.

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The Alchemy of Money
Walks & Sparks
Walking the wasteland in search of awe
Frederik Gieschen