August 18, 2009

A silence "inhabited" by God

Thomas Merton once wrote: “We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have—for their usefulness.” We tend to apply the same scheme of reasoning to God Himself: If God exists, people often argue, then He must busy Himself, otherwise He is a false god. We cannot accept the silence of God, as much as we cannot accept the silence tout court. People perceive it as an uncomfortable and awkward break in conversation, so they instinctively insist on filling the silence, and this because nowadays we perceive silence as an absence, as an emptiness. We cannot conceive a meaningful silence, and even less one “inhabited” by Someone: a silence “inhabited” by God. This is part, in my opinion, of the problem with our culture and way of life.

Mother Teresa once said: “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.” The contemplative experience teaches the discipline of silence as exclusion of any noises and unnecessary chats, which would profane those spaces of silence. The true wise man—as a Camaldolese monk, Father Franco, once told me—speaks few words and his words are often “silence” at the same time. His words spring from a deep meditation. True silence keeps us away from narrow mindness. The word is a great thing, but it is not what is greatest: if word is silver, as the old proverb goes, silence is gold. Hi who aims at the higher levels of spiritual life needs silence as much as he needs his daily bread and rest for his body.

“In the attitude of silence—said Mahatma Gandhi—the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” May the rest of the Summer be a time of renewal and, as far as possible, of silence, for me and for you, my good readers.


First written for The Metaphysical Peregrine

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  1. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken (Matthew 12,36)

  2. “…A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;”
    ~Ecclesiastes 3:7

  3. "Ceux qui savent ne parlent pas. Ceux qui parlent ne savent pas." Lao Tseu.

    "Ceux qui n'entendent pas sont sourds", et c'est moi qui le dis..

  4. Thanks for sending me this link. It's a good reminder to stop every so often and let silence be our guide. Maybe that's why when I'm working in the garden, I break into song. Besides giving our minds a rest, and providing a new pathway to learn and grow, silence can also bring joy.


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