Cardinal Robert Sarah’s The Power of Silence has as its subtitle Against the Dictatorship of Noise. God speaks to us in silence, the Guinean-born Roman Catholic Cardinal maintains. When were you last immersed in silence? Right. Me, too. I have a cousin who lives on a wooded place that’s close to a small town. She knows a bit about silence. But other than that, my friends and acquaintances, all like me, and probably like you, are immersed, daily, monthly, yearly, in noise. Before I read this book, I would not have used the word “dictatorship” to label it. But Sarah convinced me: it fits. When you live under the thumb of a dictator, you can’t escape, and I can’t escape noise.
But it’s a self-imposed dictatorship, isn’t it? I could turn off the TV (at least the commercials), the computer, the phone, the news, the background music. I could avoid restaurants that always play loud music. But can I avoid traffic? Can I avoid the sound of my car? The hospital sirens by night (I live near a hospital). Planes, trains, autos? If I work in a factory that makes anything, there’s noise. If I live near one, the same applies. If I spend my day as a teacher or student in a school, it is constant noise. Check out your local public high school’s lunchroom around twelve noon someday. Some teachers wear ear plugs. Noise may be the real motive behind gated communities.
Sarah doesn’t belabor this point as much as I have. Instead, he dwells on and relishes what happens in silence.
For one, after we become accustomed to it (This may take a while. There are many voices in us that clamor to be heard, to distract us), we may be blessed with an insight: unless you become as a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. For me, that insight has been a key. I trust it because it came from the lips of God.
Sarah asserts that God who speaks to us in silence is the meekest, and sweetest of Beings. He yearns to be intimate with us. If we think we are seeking Him, He is seeking us much more.
But we only make these discoveries in silence.
And if you and I rarely experience silence…