Silence, Love and Death

Silence is not just that which is around words and underneath images and events. It has a life of its own. It’s a phenomenon with an almost physical identity. It is almost a being in itself to which you can relate. Philosophically, we would say being is that foundational quality which precedes all other attributes. When you relate to the naked being of a thing, you learn to know it at its core. Silence is at the very foundation of all reality. It is that out of which all being comes and to which all things return. (If the word “silence” does not grab you, you can interchange it with nothingness, emptiness, vastness, formlessness, open space, or any undefined reality.)

You do not hear silence (precisely!), but it is that by which you do hear. You cannot capture silence. It captures you. Silence is a kind of thinking that is not thinking. It’s a kind of thinking which mostly sees (contemplata). Silence, then, is an alternative consciousness. It is a form of intelligence, a form of knowing beyond bodily reacting or emotion. It is a form of knowing beyond mental analysis, which is what we usually call thinking.

Richard Rohr, adapted from Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation

I have found silence to be my true home and refuge, and the source of whatever there may be of faith in me, and trust. It is the place from which I can look at love and death, and find them not to be in opposition. Death is only the gate by which we must all fall into the arms of love, and so a sacred thing. But I can only see this in silence, by way of silence; I would think it very difficult for anyone to come to it another way.

Silence being, as Rohr says, ‘at the very foundation of all reality’, it is itself love, the Ground of Being. I think we misunderstand love, more often than not. It is not a thing we can acquire, nor a state we can aspire to, so much as the precondition for being itself. Why else would anything be, still less come to know itself, and in itself God, and so love?

2 thoughts on “Silence, Love and Death

  1. Angela Arnold

    I have wondered about the meaning of ‘ God’s love’ quite a bit recently, and I too think we misunderstand it.
    I take what we call God to be perfect as such, hence unchangeable, and to be logical we would need to call that a ‘life-less’ existence. Now there can’t be anything outside or beyond the Perfect. But there could be – and we can only play around with images and narratives – a space (and time and matter) INSIDE God where everything and everybody happens.
    If we are literally God’s life, the only life God has, then how can we speak of God’s love for us As humans, we understand loving only as something that bridges a divide, works at a distance. But God ‘loving’ us goes hand in hand with being us – all of us.
    The thing that strikes me most about this way of looking at things is how utterly close and related we all are to each other, flesh of the same one and only body – how then can we not love one another?
    So why do we say that there is only ‘that of god’ in each of us…as if the rest of us were somehow ungodly?!
    In my thought experiment I would make a distinction between God-as-such – transcendent, perfect, finite, static, ‘dead’, theoretical – and the other, embodied, incarnate, living God that is the universe and all and everything in it – fallible and changeable, constantly evolving, far from finite…because only parts and fractions of the Whole are ‘projected’ into that inner space…like a picture, maybe an illusion…and without anything being subtracted from the ever whole Whole in the course of this creative (=self-transforming) process.
    So I would see us all as godly throughout, but fallible because not Whole, only partial.
    And ‘that of God’ I would suggest is our residual inner sense of coming out of that Whole, a memory if you like of Perfection, or a vision of it, which may guide us in the decisions we make how to lead our individual (God’s many) lives.

    Reply
  2. Mike Farley Post author

    Thank you, Angela – I do apologise for taking so long to thank you.

    “So I would see us all as godly throughout, but fallible because not Whole, only partial.
    And ‘that of God’ I would suggest is our residual inner sense of coming out of that Whole, a memory if you like of Perfection, or a vision of it, which may guide us in the decisions we make how to lead our individual (God’s many) lives.”

    Yes! That is beautifully put, and your point about being “godly throughout” is well taken – I get the sense of one of those sticks of seaside rock, with the lettering all the way through… That “residual sense” of yours would of course explain stories like the exile from Eden, in Genesis, that are full of longing and a kind of holy nostalgia, like the sound of music down empty places. (I’m thinking of, say, some of Andrew Lahiff’s ambient pieces.)

    Thank you again – truly a comment to come back to, Angela!

    Reply

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