Question Four

Do you fear silence?

Why does silence fill space?  And what in my world or in my person demands that the silence be removed from that space, my space?  What does silence disturb, and what are my retaliatory actions toward it?  And what does an examination of those actions reveal?  In short, why is the silence so loud as to be bothersome?  And why do I care?

I once locked myself in a monastic cell for twenty-four hours and the silence felt heavy and dangerous.  I really should have done this on some other weekend.  I had only a Bible and a yellow pad and way too much time on my hands.  Outside my window was a slice of Memorial Drive, with cars clipping by, going somewhere without me.  There was a sink and a clean white towel in the room, but how many times can you wash your face or brush your teeth?  And why is it that this monkish flat did not include a wireless bluetooth speaker, but only a crucifix and a clock?  A clock on the table.  A clock that ticks.  A heart that beats.  And the time was transformative.

It is possible that I would give my very life to make silence a vacuum, a space into which any sound rushes in, invited and welcomed, to fill the void with loud satisfaction.  I would give my life for anti-silence, because if God then speaks in a still small voice I will not hear it.  And has that not been my goal all along?  But then, what sort of fool would never be quiet?  

And perhaps that brings us to you.  

How can a man claim to be indifferent to the question of God’s existence and yet not be indifferent to the matter of silence?  Why is it the daily, deliberate, and relentless act of his life to end the absence of sound?  And certainly in this day he is provided with every means to that end.  Sound is a commodity and he is a buyer.  Even with a cup of coffee one is offered the sound of the week, making its way toward you without invitation.  And one of my favorite images of all time — the man riding the subway, wearing headphones and sunglasses — I will not hear you, and I will not permit you to look into my eyes.  We Are Closed.

Now, let’s get crazy for a moment.  What if we consider that it is even the love of God that grants us the choice of sound or silence?  And what if this same God refuses to intrude upon that choice?  And what if we decide that, with great and conscious effort, we will put our shoulder to the sound and shove it aside to allow the quiet?  What will God do?  And what if I then linger there with silence as my only ambition?  What will God do?  And what if I place myself in that silent space day after day after day with open hands and a solitary question — “Will you not speak to me?”  What will God do?