Living, as I did, in an abusive parental system, I found my refuge in books even at four and five years old. Part of the way through my large, beloved lap-book of Sleeping Beauty, or perhaps it was Snow White, there was an illustration which so terrified me that I would turn the page and simply speak out loud, from memory, that part of the story. In the image which I could not see, the prince was charging forward on his black steed into a dark forest from a grassy field – into dangerous mists and fierce thorns and yellow eyes peering out at him as if he looked like a snack. The forest was portrayed as evil; as was its silence and darkness.
Now, so many decades later, I have made great friends with dark forests. They hold mushrooms (my favorite soup,) bright green moss (my favorite color) and silence (my favorite state of being.)
It is in the wildernesses of our lives that we need silence and yet, I find, that it is so tempting to anesthetize our suffering from fears, wounds and terrors with noise. We tune on the radio. We put in our ear buds. We keep the television going. We read books and magazines. We walk to audiobooks. And then we go to church…pipe organ, hymn, psalms, confession, sermon, hymn, announcements, pipe organ, coffee hour. Insert two minutes of silence in the liturgy and someone, many in fact, will ask why the minister lost his place or forgot to begin the Creed.
I think we all suffer much more than any of us are willing to admit. We all carry so much hurt, so many bruises, so many betrayals, so many manipulations. We carry them hidden inside us like a black-windowed Mercedes filled with broken things. Scabs. Bandages. Journals. Broken gin bottles. Broken vows. Broken friendships. And those whose emotional intelligence is snake-belly-low, they lower those black windows and use their broken things in their ready slingshots.
Silence, on the other hand, metabolizes suffering by letting all the suffering sink to the bottom of one’s psyche like silt after a storm. And that lower, cold, fresh stream carries it away to the banks where it can nourish the ferns and water-grasses. It is in the silence that we are wooed back to the three diamonds of simplicity, patience and compassion. And with these three graces forged in silent mindfulness, we are able to be the good people of God, bearing God and within God.