The Power of Silence

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.


4 thoughts on “The Power of Silence

  1. Lance, I relish silence, but it is hard to find. There is a difference between the sounds of nature, like breeze through the trees, or the sounds of bird calls, and human noise, like talking, or the drone of machines.

    Natural sounds are like a symphony of harmomy, and pleasing to the spirit, but these have been drowned out by human frenzy over the course of my almost 70 years. Urbanization has moved outward to my formerly peaceful, rural environment, with its attendant traffic and power tools. The military and police and constant sirens have created a war zone around me. There’s no escape from helicopters, airplanes, and commercialization in my back yard.

    I understand why some people go deaf.

  2. It is hard to find, Katherine. And since Cardinal Darah maintains that since silence is where we encounter God, many people don’t encounter Him. Worse, the everincreasing din seems to shout that He isn’t there.

  3. Great insight. It behooves us to honor silence.

    Traditionally this was the way of the religious society of friends ( Quaker’s). I understand that they Felt the presence of the divine through that practice of silent waiting on the divine. From the experience of silence it became a regular daily practice. Unfortunately contemporary friends do not seek the silence as much. It is the structure of worship for some friends meetings but that is only 1 hour a week. Of course the eastern religions know of silence.

    1. Martha, I missed this and I’m sorry. Jean and I joined with a Friends group at Emory back in the sixties. But silence was not on my radar. In fact, I was irritated or even fearful of it for the following reason. From the age of 6-12, I lived in a 6 hundred acre pine forest into which my dad’s company built a gas measuring station and a house for our fami;y. The silence was too much for me. These days Silence greets me early when I rise (5AM) and I rejoice in it. Sad to hear contemporary Friends have abandoned the old way.

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