The Ironic Space of Silence
Dear Kaleid Ladies,
Do you remember the last car trip you took with family or friends? Do you recall the scurry of packing and the lists you made ahead of time? Do you remember the early morning rush and the “one more things” that ran through your head? Do you remember closing the car door after the last bag was in place and climbing in, exhaling for what felt like the first time all day? Do you remember looking at your travel companion and feeling like you were suddenly, finally “with” them, even though you had been with them all along?
This experience is a bit like the experience of silence.
Silence is an ironic space.
It is ironic, because to enter into silence means to become aware of the noise in our head, our environment, and our relationships. To enter into silence means to become aware of all this noise and choose to believe there is something deeper and more real than any of the fluttering parts of reality that compose the sounds of our lives.
Silence gives us awareness of the noise and asks us whether we are willing to move beyond it to connect with the deeper reality that lies underneath.
St. John of the Cross (16th c) said that “God’s first language is silence.” God, who met Elijah in the silence, meets us there too.
The spiritual practice of silence is hard because we often feel like we have to pack the proverbial car to get there. Laying aside devices, setting aside time, casting aside self-judgment, moving aside to-dos. We don’t enter silence immediately, but there comes a place inside of our silence where we can settle in and encounter God in a deeper way.
The poem below is a poem I (Karen) wrote after a day of silence at a local monastery a few years ago. We wanted to share it here to remind us of the many ways silence can help us to see God and ourselves and others more clearly. So that we can come home to our place as loved daughters once again…settling into the journey with the One who made us.
Our fall contemplative series is called “Dwell.” We would love for you to join us! Early on Wednesday mornings, we will be spending time together in silence after reflecting on scripture about dwelling with God. It will be simple, but we believe it will be orienting. We’d love your company.
The Kaleid Team
A Way of Being in the World
In the world
Bright sign flashing lottery wealth at 6 am
Bail bonds here
Two suits, just $99
Thousands of oncoming lights rushing toward work - it’s that hour
A quiet exit
A school bus (No, four)
A nature trail
One word, backlit in the dawn: MONASTERY
In my world
Silent, dark coffee (forced silence)
A fresh peach and too old raspberries (breakfast car picnic)
Speed, by tenths with GPS accuracy - marking progress
Light, green and gold, over trees
Fog, mist, pink, sunrise
I overshoot the simple sign
U Turn (with a noisy sigh on the side)
A way of being. Mine…
Privileged, Churched, Scripted, Crowded, Head-ish, Virtual
RIGHT or WRONG!
“Someday He will come” is the (fed-up) refrain.
A way of being. Theirs…
Small, Spacious, Hidden, Open, Sacred, Grounded
Lyrical and Silent
“He is here” is the (hopeful) refrain.
A way of being in the world
A monk with a silver tipped cane
Another with a walker, less debonair
Whirring fans that spread heady incense
Green turns to rose, which fades to blue, as outside meets inside. Candles meet ecofriendly bulbs, and stained-glass sheds arcs of color. Light plays.
It dances, hiding and emerging.
Chanting, rustling, standing, sitting, organ, cough.
A door interrupting Ezekiel’s strong word (“the shepherds are shepherding themselves”), a roaring jet engine in concert with the old-men tones of a Psalm. A concert.
Slow, timeless: an Old Testament warning and New Testament generosity (“is your eye envious because I am generous?”), an Old Testament promise and New Testament inversion…
intentionality in a line of seekers…
(Bread and Wine are worth the waiting)
all measured out with genuflection and grace.
A way of being in the world
The worn welcome sign that sets a suburban heart at ease in a cathedral.
A place for visitors to sit, keep silence – to be, to listen. To tune a heart.
A vocabulary of plenty – take, eat, banquet, receive, shepherd, generous.
You are allowed.
A dark and dignified monk trades whispers with a man in his wrinkled Columbia t-shirt.
A stalwart Father leads mass and speaks grace to this morning’s news.
A nun among brothers offers her light accompaniment to their low praise.
A phone jingles, 1976-style. I can picture its noisy shake.
A jet roars. Again.
A tousled novice passes the peace - flashes me the two-fingered peace sign.
(Or were those rabbit ears?)
No joke. He smiles.
So do I.
Go. Into the world…and be.