Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ethics Issuing from Silence I

To do the work of silence, simply to become silent—not merely refraining from noise—and to live through the gifts silence gives us—requires us to live the gospel's instructions. Or, to put it the other way round, if we do the work of silence we will discover the gospel instructions for ourselves (it is this the institutional church has failed to teach us). If we don't follow these injunctions, we either won't enter silence in the first place, or we will find it unbearable when we do.

We must give up judgment, anger, avarice, whether for things, ideas, or people; we must be ruthlessly honest—in the event, the silence will strip us of our lies if we aren't. We must let our lives play out before the eye of the heart, seeing other points of view, changing our own "take" on a matter so that we can "give"—forgive; letting go. Or if we can't, trusting that in the silence our hearts will be changed so that we may have compassion and detachment and allow God's forgiveness (for in a sense we can never forgive; only God can) to flow through us.

[When we read ancient and medieval texts about pride, we're looking primarily at the notion of hanging onto and insisting on your own ideas, and only secondarily at what today we would think of as pride in its more limited and trivial sense.]

In other words, when we go into silence (and I'm thinking of meditation here as the easiest example to work with) all the compass points by which we normally navigate are suspended. Contradictions, paradoxes, life events we think of as "good" and "evil" all live equally and together in the silence. Nothing is wasted. With the changed perspective that silence gives, our discernments, our judgments and all the rest become far more provisional. We may see, for example, that what we once counted evil may be no less so in itself, but that somehow it has been woven into the fabric of redemption. We learn to live with ambiguity.


Blogger Joel said...

Just discovered your blog and cannot wait to begin to read all your archived material!! You are and have been now for over 30 years in my (our) prayers and thoughts and thanksgivings for so many things remembered and read. Bless you. Joel Watson (ole Brother Joel SSF) who is now married to Margaret (27 years now).

2:54 am, August 14, 2008  

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