Friday, 20 June 2014

Silence as light

This morning in the bath I was thinking more about seeds of peace and war, about simplicity and travelling light. The bath is a good place to think, and our bathroom is white and full of sunshine, which brings clarity and good thoughts. Illumination.

I like to pray in the bath. So I was praying about the longing to walk lighter and lighter, and told my Lord I wanted to be as light and see-through in my being as a lace-wing, and that made Him laugh. I have always been rather hefty.

My thoughts moved on to consider silence. I love silence. Though I live in a houseful of people – and always have done – I spend much time in solitude and silence. If I have a favourite saint, I think it is St Joseph. In the gospel record he is entirely silent – never says a thing – but practical, nurturing, kind; in his silence is no condemnation, rejection or judgement. The gospel writers offer, in their portrait of St Joseph, an icon of the Silence that fosters the living Word – the Silence with which the Word is at home; the Silence that nurtures the Word as it grows to maturity. With kind Silence the Word grows in grace and truth.

And as I swam through these thoughts, something pointed out to me a reality I had never noticed. I was holding in the Light some events – words – that had hurt me. They had got stuck in my soul like splinters and I couldn’t get them out. When that happens, usually I talk about them. But the Light said “Sssh”, so this time I didn’t. Still they were sharp and stuck into me and didn’t fade.

And then it pointed out to me, silence keeps emotions in a non-material state. If I had discussed these things that hurt me, relational baggage would have evolved. Silence allowed them to dissolve in peace. It dawned on me that just as material possessions hold the seeds of war – become sources of contention – so also contention materializes emotion into baggage, if you see what I mean. Therefore silence is an essential component of simplicity. It preserves emotional, relational simplicity. Silence facilitates travelling emotionally and relationally light.

I am not recommending that a person who has been abused keeps it a secret, or that friends freeze each other out by refusing to talk things through. There is a healthy place for telling one’s story and being honest with one another.


What I mean is cultivating an interior open luminous spaciousness in which events and experiences can be dissolved of their heaviness by the joy of inner light.

11 comments:

mari said...

...silence allows them to dissolve in peace... living with pain, sometimes becomes the norm. But so does rehashing old hurts. Angry words tend to leave noise even after they are said. Silence dissolves them.

Beautifully written Pen.

mari

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx

Ros said...

Gosh! How odd! I was thinking of writing something about silence today! The words haven't formed yet, though, so it may not happen.

Meanwhile, I'm confused. I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you say 'contention materialises emotion into baggage'?

Pen Wilcock said...

Sometimes, when people have psychological or emotional issues about something - hangups, obsessions, concerns - they are described as having 'baggage'. Occasionally one will hear someone say they don't want to marry someone with 'baggage', meaning unresolved emotional tensions and entanglements from their past.
This 'baggage', though invisible, is something that certainly encumbers people, weighs them down; they trip over it continually. It gets in the way and interferes with their freedom.
'Baggage' can accumulate through contention; when a couple is at war over many years and then their parting is bitter and acrimonious, they are often left with 'baggage'; stuff they haven't dealt with that continues to burden them.
Silence that is truly quiet (not loud, accusing, hostile silence!) allows simplicity to persist. When, instead of arguing and criticising, instead of picking a fight or pointing out a fault, we allow what irritates and annoys us to sink into silence and dissolve or disperse, we stop it forming, hardening, materialising into 'baggage'. That's what I meant.
Though it is about psychological realities rather than physical possessions, I was struck by the interesting similarity. How baggage (in the sense of actual material belongings) creates contention, and contention creates baggage (of the psychological variety). xx

Ros said...

Thank you. That makes sense :)

Tony Collins said...

A contentious conversation is the start of a journey. Where do you want the journey to end?

Sometimes silence is just as aggravating as argument. The trick is to discern the map.

Pen Wilcock said...

I love that point about considering where the journey might end before you set foot in a particular conversational direction! x

gail said...

That is beautiful. Could it also be loving enough to let the silence dissolve the pain or hurt. By loving I mean both self or the other person. When you realise that to speak it out would cause more pain or contention.
I very much like you thoughts here Pen and I can picture Jesus reaching down from the cross and in silence saying " I'll take that, you have no need of it. '' and you quietly and silently let it go, allowing that space to be filled with peace.
Blessings Gail

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes. That sounds good. xx :0)

Anekha said...

There is a Bahai writing that talks about the necessity for silence in prayer… because Man cannot do more than one thing at a time, and so therefore, he cannot both speak and hear the guidance of God.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Anekha! Nice to hear from you :0) xx