Friday, August 10, 2012

Sermon on Silence



Time for a personal confession. I am addicted to silence. Not the prolonged silence as in that silent movie of the silent monks, but an instant silence in which the juxtaposition between sounds, meanings, thoughts, sentences, even words is a space seemingly of a nothingness, not even pregnant with potential. In that silent space is just space, a space where no thing, no name, no idea, no construct, no piece, no particular, no chunk, lump, icon or lunkhead is to be found. Yet even then (as quantum leaps in our comprehension proves) space teems with the tiniest of unseen particles. Such is the synchrony within the interstices of the canvas of mankind, let alone the warp and weave of mankind's universe. When we hold a cloth up to the light there are spaces amongst the weave; so too through the leaves of a tree. A microscope shows organisms crawling in their own prison of space. Think of an atom and then a quirk or quark; we can scarcely envision it but surrounded by space. And being in touch with such emptiness, for me, is a sense of breath-taking. Listen if you will to Poe's Fall of The House of Usher in the Alan Parsons Project album. When the engorging music reaches a discordance so profound as to stir the sensibility of a climax, there is ... Silence. I've never timed it. I wish to bring no math to such exquisite nothingness. And among all the genres of my music collection there is not one note so pure and captivating, for me, as that isolated moment of utter silence. 

Things intrude. We are naturally involved with things. Even thoughts. Things ourselves, we prefer this shape to that shape, this size to that size, this color to that colour, and this spelling to that spelling. We grow up to recognize bad things from safe things, and safer things from badder things. We become selective. We hate. We love. We like. We dislike. We get addicted. We get attached. We do not care. We are naturally human. And we are stirred by what we feel, what we think, what we see, touch, taste, smell, hear. Well, obviously. But what is difficult for us to accept is that someone else may like or even love the things that we don't, in particular when it comes to values. A tribe who eats their elders as a matter of course, let alone abandons them as a matter of tradition, is an anathema to us. And all that we have innately registered as that which we ourselves are, in feeling, thought, sensibility, acceptable standards and value is very difficult now for us to bend or to move too far away from, for fear, as Tevye put it, that we shall break.

I really do not like seeing the word 'lamb' in a restaurant; I've cuddled some up in the crook of my arms. So too for a piglet, and a calf, and a chicken. Why not eat a pony, a puppy, or a kitten? And how about a... Where do we draw the line? Naturally, we draw lines. Some people never buy a Dodge. Some people would not thank you for a... We have preferences. It is the degree of our inability to overcome a standard of practiced belief that determines how easily integrative we are. As the saying goes: One can tell the measure of a man by what gets his goat. So some of us prefer not to eat meat, but if you serve it we shall eat, and be grateful for the present. But what if you like to serve boiled orphans? Then we must make a choice and draw a line, and create conditions around such a practice that curtails, contains and if necessary cauterizes the thing that would harm others. Sophistication has it that we do not harm others, that we do not kill, harm creatures, and so on down the slippery slope of contentions until we do not even pull out the carrot. Where does one the draw the line? When do we allow everything just to be, in the spaces between silence, as a participant? Now, is this a 'modest proposal', or does one need a Swiftian kick? Hm? Shush now. Shush. Who do you think you are?


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