Saturday, May 10, 2014

Black Hole Silence and the Undeniable Actualization of Truth

Silence. I once wrote a poem, when I was 19 years old and lonely as hell, about my fear of silence. I won't post it here, as it is one of the saddest things I've ever put on paper. But, the impact and the emotion that it came from has stayed with me, to the point where I remember it far more vividly than any other poem that I have written. In my loneliness, I ran from silence. Silence was a black hole; a dark night with no end. When the world around me was silent, the voices of my failure and of my defeat screamed all around me. I felt the weight of all the world's maladies inside of me when it all fell silent. Thankfully though, as I've grown up, I've come to see the beauty in silence. As I've begun to come to grips with my own depravity and my desperate need for a Savior, silence has lost some of its power. In reading old contemplative monks like Merton, Augustine, Brother Lawrence, Nouwen, et al, the necessity for silence in the Christian's life has become obvious; we need to sit still in silent reflection, face those demons that say we're worthless, and embrace the voice that calls us beloved. Our failure is real, but more real is the gospel of the cross. When we let ourselves be silent, we can put those two voices into the Thunderdome. And in the Thunderdome of our self-awareness, truth will win. And so, in silence we come alive; we can take on the undeniable truth that our lives are worth something. Silence is a necessity.

 Peach and I have been traveling for the last week and I've been noticing the complete lack of silence in the world around us. We are in Ecuador, but my observations here can't be limited to this country. (Sidenote: sitting here in the Quito airport, waiting on a flight, "Sounds of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel just came on the radio. Small world.) We've rode on a handful of buses over the last week of traveling. In Ecuador, the buses tend to advertise the services that are available on the side of the bus itself. There are icons printed on the bus that tell the potential traveler that the bus offers reclining seats, air conditioning, a bathroom, etc. This week, I noticed for the first time that almost all of the buses we boarded had music advertised as one of the services. I'm not talking about a stereo system in which an individual passenger can select and listen to their personal music, or that music is provided on an individual basis. No, the buses advertise that while the bus is en route to its destination, the driver will put on the radio and play it loud enough for everyone to hear. I was confused as to why a potential passenger would see blaring Bachata from loudspeakers as an asset, as something that makes the bus ride more appealing. As I thought about it, though, I've come to think that many people see silence as I used to; as a black hole, as a dark and terrifying night. Music is the easiest way to stave off the silence. And, after hearing the same damn latino rhythm a thousand times over the last week, I can only assume that people are running.

 I see it, too, in the smart phone culture that has developed over the last decade. There is no space in the day when we are alone with ourselves. I'm as guilty of this as anyone. We never have to face the silence if there's a game to play or an instagram feed to follow. Having infinite access to a world of information and social connection means that silence can be eradicated. We're never bored. I also noticed this week that the indigenous people that we were around this week were never alone. I don't remember seeing a single person that wasn't walking, working, or talking, with a family member or friend. Bus and truck drivers always had a companion sitting next to them. Kids walking to school had their school mates. There wasn't any solitude.

 This is a trend I fear becoming a reality in my own life. I want to embrace the silence; to face my fear and my failure. I want to believe the gospel and to know that the voices I hear when the world falls silent of my impending death and my inherent worthlessness are false; that I am given life by the Creator of life itself. Silence is a beautiful thing. It is in my silent moments that I feel the full extent of God's undying passion for me. In silence, I am consumed with the full joy of being loved and known; a feeling that escapes me when I am playing computer games or updating my facebook feed. Silence is a gateway to truth, and I want to embrace it to the fullest extent. There is no truth in our defeat, for the victory is won. And, yes. We are all hopeless wretches that will only impart chaos on the world around us. But, in Christ, we are made new; free and equipped to live outwardly, to love with our whole being. But loving with our whole being is a hard end to reach if we spend all of our time running from silence. Let's embrace it together. Of course, I might just be sick of that damn Bachata music.

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