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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

The Holy Quiet of Edgar Sawtelle

After 38 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list and much discussion at Oprah’s Book Club, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle hardly needs more talk. So the end. No more words. No more discussion about this remarkable epic.

However, there’s something else. Something even more remarkable to discuss. It has to do with how many people are choosing to read this 562-page novel. In this day of multi-tasking, twittering, and twaddling, millions of people are setting aside days on end to disappear into the holy quiet birthed by this story.

Last week I was in holy quiet for five days straight. I turned on the computer only long enough to answer emails and check job boards. I didn’t listen to music. I didn’t turn on the TV. I read. I moaned. I read some more. I slept. For five days I was in the altered state of holy quiet evoked by author David Wroblewski. And I imagine that Wroblewski could only have written such a sprawling ode to humanity and Nature with a capital “N” if he, too, was immersed in this place. A place so deep, it feels as if you are at the center of the Earth. It’s a place that births tumultuous inner movements and deafening sounds sans noise. (So fitting that the title character, Edgar, is mute.) Everything you feel reading this book comes from holy quiet.

Yet we spend our lives — we are required to spend our lives — social networking and messaging, maneuvering and strategizing, analyzing and branding, updating our status and downplaying our flaws, which — compared to this place of holy quiet — feels like noise, clutter, filler energy. And it feels, well, silly.

So my question to myself and others is: if so many millions of us long to sink into the holy quiet of this book, why, why, why do we perpetuate the twaddle and clutter? … Or maybe a more realistic question is how to stay immersed in the holy quiet no matter the requisite twaddle and clutter of our times.

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