Silence - Monday Musing, February 15, 2021
Silence. The absence of sound. In today’s high-tech, fast-paced world is it even possible to be in a state of total silence? Our smartphones make an array of noises throughout the day – alerting us to telephone calls, text messages, social media posts, news and weather updates. In our homes, heaters and air conditioning units hum, clocks tick, televisions blare, and any number of electronic gadgets are doing everything but be quiet. Some cannot stand complete silence, so they run fans, TVs, or play music, anything to make noise.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is 1 Kings 19. Elijah flees for his life and hides in a cave to escape the evil Jezebel who is trying to kill him. Elijah says to God, “the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away. (God) said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” (19:10-12).
Many of us think that God makes a grand entrance (and makes a lot of noise). God in sheer silence – how is that even possible?
In these challenging times of a coronavirus global pandemic, racial inequality, economic insecurity, climate change, and political divisions, noise distracts us from the work we are called to do. Some would rather be doing everything else, anything else besides speaking up and not remaining silent.
We may long for silence, but familiar quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr. haunt us:
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
This Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, which is a time for us to look inward and reflect on our spiritual connection to God. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven... A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” (3:1,7). While Lent is typically a time for reflection (silence), may your reflection lead you to speak when and wherever you find injustice, intolerance, discrimination, hate, or anything else that is anathema to our faith.
May the lyrics of the 1964 song by Simon & Garfunkel reverberate in you:
Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence