Silence. I wonder how you react to it? I wonder if you like ft. I wonder how you’d complete the sentence: ‘Silence Is..? Is It golden for you? Or uncomfortable? Or unbearable? And I wonder when you were last truly, profoundly, utterly silent In body and mind, and how it felt?
Silence can come In all sorts of ways and mean all sorts of things. There’s the silence that comes at the end of a powerful play or concert. The kind of silence that can fall at the end of a stirring act of worship or a moving speech. The silence that says `That was profound, and I don’t want it to end. Let’s not break into chatter and triviality, or even applause, just yet.’
Then there’s the silence that comes when we hear `I’ve had the test results…’ or ‘I need to tell you about Jane…’ The silence that falls when we know we’re powerless, at the mercy of events beyond our control, which we fear and dread.
Or there could be the awkward, embarrassed silence, when someone asks ‘Will you say a few words?’, and you’ve nothing prepared. Or when they say ‘Just be yourself’ at the start of an interview, and you can’t work out who you’re meant to be that day. The silence that leaves everyone a bit exposed and floundering uncomfortably.
Silence can come with all sorts of different feelings, but they have something in common. Silence falls when we acknowledge we’re not in control. There’s something beyond us, something we cannot grasp or handle. Whether it follows ecstasy or fear, joy or embarrassment, silence comes when we feel small in the face of something transcendent. Silence comes when we recognise something about our humanity — how noble, yet comical, how beautiful, yet absurd, how small, yet amazing we humans can be. That’s why I would say above all: ‘Silence is….human.’
If you’re having some holiday time this summer, I wonder if silence will be part of the experience. Will you want to take full control of your vacation time, and cram it with every possible experience and opportunity? Will that make you more deeply human? Or will there be some space to discover silence, and thrive as a person that way?
I don’t mean that we all need to go to a monastery for 30 days! A potter in the garden, time sat still in a chair, or a gentle country walk, could all be life-giving wells of silence. Moments of restoration and wonder in the presence of God, rebuilding our humanity in an abrasive, noisy world. I hope silence may break in upon you this summer.
And with that in mind, I’ll stop. Because writing about silence, or talking about it, is mildly strange to say the least. So I’ll take my hands off the keyboard now, stop and be still, before moving on to life’s next thing. Maybe before reading the next page of this magazine you’ll do the same, and find silence’s blessings breaking in.