The Sound of Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

C. S. Lewis said reality is harsh to the feet of shadows. Well I think this is true, but I also think silence can be extremely loud to the ears of the over-exposed. I think this is why we're so afraid of silence: it's too loud for us. We are so desensitized by the noise, the color, the television and the radio, the pixels of the computer screen, and the ubiquitous purr of our other technologies, that we have forgotten about silence, how beautiful it is, how true and how necessary. After all, if God speaks in a Still Small Voice, how can we hope to hear it with our numb ears, over the static din of our mechanical children? Jesus often went to a quiet place to pray, but I'm afraid we're running out of those. We're paving over them, chasing the silence away, and it's tragic. But as noisy as our worlds can be, I think our hearts are noisy too. They are becoming numb, raw from erosion, as the noise scrapes and chips away at their surfaces.

But doesn't God know how things have changed? A Still Small Voice, to our modern sensibilities, is utterly irrelevant in a world of flesh and flash and spectacle and carnival. Why won't God pipe up then? Why does the Old Fool insist on His or Her silly silence?

We need it is why. Our souls crave quiet intimacy, they ache for peace and serenity. Can't you feel it? Can't you feel the echoes of some peace that seems so foreign now? Trust me, God knows what He or She is doing. God knows a Still Small Voice is actually the only relevant thing in a culture of numbness. God would sound His or Her barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world if He or She thought for a moment it's what we need. But it's not. It's just... not.

So listen. It really doesn't have to be so complicated, just stop talking and listen. Stop acting and wait. If you're forcing it, you're doing it wrong. Maybe the monks and nuns have it right. They seem content enough, don't they? How could they be though? They don't have iPhones or sports cars! They haven't seen the latest seasons of the Big Bang Theory or the Voice! They don't even have hundreds of strangers following them on facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram, or hell, even myspace! How do they smile, then, without anonymous shadows telling them how cool they are? How do they know they matter if they aren't plugged into the social spiderweb of instant and constant validation? They just do. The Still Small Voice tells them so.

What is God whispering to you? It took my sitting on a dock, alone, miles away from cell range to hear it, to hear anything at all. It took my leaving my laptop at home and refusing to plug headphones into my ears, which for the larger part of my average day attach me to my iPod like an umbilical cord attaches an unborn to its mother. And I think I've lost sight of which is the mother anymore. In any case, I unplugged, and I heard God. I even heard what seemed to be a note wavering off in the distance. A musical note. God was humming to me, an E flat I think.

Unplug, people. You won't drift off into space. God's gonna hold you by the ankles while your soul heals, until you weigh enough to walk on the earth again. Be the one who says yes to healing, to peace, to wholeness. Be that one, even if you're the only one, because the hope is it might catch. After all, as Simon and Garfunkel sang, "silence, like a cancer, grows." And I certainly hope it will, because it's what we need right now, not a new dose of noisy progress, not the promise of chrome perfection, but a generous helping of peace and quiet, and intimacy, and the whispers of God. We need the therapy they provide, to recondition our hearts to hear the Still Small Voice again.

People say God doesn't speak anymore, even that He or She is dead. Well listen damn it! This Dead Man tells some pretty beautiful tales. So listen, even if all you hear is silence, because maybe the medium is the message. Maybe silence is the answer. Remember, when Christ stands accused before Pontius Pilot, the governor asks Him a question. "What is truth?" Pilot begs, and Christ responds with the nothing heard 'round the world. He doesn't say a word, at least not one John records. How ridiculous is that? Is Jesus ignoring the question? No, no, He answers it loud and clear. The silence spoke more to Pilot than a thousand words could have. In this moment he must have felt, acutely, the absence of God, which must be known before His or Her presence can be truly and fully experienced. Silence is the canvas on which God paints our stories. Silence is the space in which we wrestle, and writhe, and despair, but it is also the space in which we dream, and imagine, and discover.

It was only ever in discovering I was without God that I learned how real God is, and how necessary. I needed to know I was missing something before I could desire to discover what it was. And this is the grand opportunity. We are all aching for shalom in a world of cold, inhuman static. So listen to those whom God puts in your life. If they can't calm their hearts in silence before God, be the silence into which they can scream. Be the canvas on which they paint the shitty picture. Be with them in their pain, and when things quiet, be the still small voice. And then listen to God together.

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him." - Psalm 62:5


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