In our current day and age, it is more important than ever that we allow ourselves to reclaim the sacred space of silence. We must rip this silence from the science of use. Unclench those tightened fingers and pour the silence into the well, of which we cannot see the bottom, but from which springs the unexplained life.
We treat silence too often like an object, something to be manipulated and molded, squeezed and compressed into the most useful shape. We ought to treat it more like a living, breathing thing, for in silence dwells the living presence of God (and His own beating heart). In silence is the infinite, for in silence there is the perpetual potential for the not-yet to become the now. Silence is a gift which promises the richness of life, a gift which is ever ours, should we choose to open it for what it is, rather than reshaping it into what we have decided it should be.
God abides among the ruins. He is in the broken pieces of language, and in the severed stems of something beautiful. Allow him to sew them together, to plant the fragment seeds in the ground; let Him lift the dampened petals with a sudden and unexpected breeze. And then you will watch the petals dance, and the once fallen flowers will form a new spring, perhaps not today, not tomorrow, but on a someday completely assured.
I want to love as many things as I can, and for what they really are: pavement, puddles, rain dazzled window panes, crooked wooden benches, mounds of slush-speckled snow… I find I am far happier when I can wake up on a morning that is grey with a spattering sky, and say, “What (another) beautiful day!” When all weathers and all things and all moments can belong and be embraced, how much more contentment might there be; how much more mindfulness! Instead of expecting, instead of bleakly waiting, the day might come detached from approval or disapproval, and shining in the brilliance of its singularity.
We often try to apply the same principles to the words we find onscreen as to the words that are spoken face to face, even though we know there is a wide gulf between the two. The words onscreen are only a record of a thought once had. The message documents expression, but there is no real experience in the hard, cold display of text. Even so, we mistakenly try to glean meaning from it, to tear it to pieces until we have found the true self of the other in this little isolated fragment. But this is no more them, this is no more real, than the whispers of the world or the lists of exterior acts define our own vast ocean of self.
Presence is real. This is the realest thing there is, and there is nothing of it on the screen.
Many times we are waiting for the words to come as we would shape them, yet we are each our own in the words we would use. We must learn to grant the freedom of expression and of soul to the other.
Many times we are waiting for the phone to ring, and it does not. Yet why do we weigh ourselves down with projected rejection, simply because the other was not confined in our arbitrary, self-imposed frame?
Upon reviewing a photograph, one never looks quite the same as one had hoped. This is because one is expecting something different from the inanimate image, which the form of the photograph is incapable of giving. One is forgetting that true beauty springs from life, and it is exactly this (life) that the photograph necessarily excludes.
I could write a hundred poems about pavement and only capture it in some small part, or not at all. Can even a miniscule piece of the earth be tamed by words or fully dissected beneath the probing lens of a microscope? The richness and depth of ordinary grandeur is insurmountable, at least with the fallible tools of the human mind. Yet we brandish those tools as though they have the skill and certainty to unlock unrivalled efficiency. But is it efficiency that has power to delight, that is charged enough to spark joy?
If we slackened our grip on those tools, we might see that we search in the wrong places and for the wrong things. Practicality keeps us grounded and in search of an end; it cannot achieve any end. Whereas wonder is an ascending force and it lifts us above our means. It lifts us even when we stoop to marvel over the cracks in the pavement. And when we wrinkle a puddle of glass with the toe of a boot and see the sparkles of all the sky and sun beneath our feet, is there any end at all but beauty? Is there any place to go other than the placeless, timeless folds of infinity? Eternity is enclosed in the minute, which, when expanded or unearthed, contains the whole of the marvelous, and the purposeless purpose of life.
Why all the pictures? What are the pictures for? And what will be done with the growing pile of photographs, when they mount so high as to obscure clear vision, and when documentation becomes the definitive guideline for sight?
Surely it is not, cannot be the same: the experience and the record of its object. We are now so eager to record, to preserve, and by doing so to outlive and outlast and out-master the cruel hand of change that also comes, at last, bearing death. We are so eager, perhaps, that the experience is slain, the sacrificial lamb to the false power and importance of documentation. Then again, it may be that there is no sacrifice, but only a neglect, a waste, a forgetting.
An endless stream of faces; they break the bounds of this bank and rush forth to meet me, sweeping over my head as I drown in the multitude. Yes, in the many, how does one choose? When confronted with the plethora of people, I am likewise confronted with hope and despair. Despair that there can be no uniqueness or importance to be one of the masses; despair that there is too much from which to choose, so much that intelligence and certainty in choice are impossible, and love, perhaps (let it not be so), is a mirage.
Yet hope, because the many are not many but people: an unfathomable display of the vast array of beauty and uniqueness; hope because the Creator is at hand in each face; hope because in such greatness there must be the Ultimate Good overseeing all these smaller goods. And so love is not only possible but singular: designed, sharing in the divine.
In the many, God still celebrates the one.
Isn’t there something inherently beautiful in detail? An object may not seem objectively beautiful (it may even be considered ugly), and yet it is invested with a sudden beauty when its intricacy (the unfathomable wonder of minutiae!) is unveiled. I had a strange and wonderful experience of this sort upon seeing a worn and weary rust-rimmed garbage can. After immediately dismissing the object as dirty (worthless even?), I saw deeper inside the little orange circles and the way they spiralled around one another. And in a peculiar and illuminating moment of revelation, even the garbage belonged and was not merely something waiting to be thrown away.
After I finished my run and just as I began to walk home, it started to rain. The first thought to occur to me was, “Oh no, it’s raining!” as is the usual and seemingly natural response (by now automatic). Then I stopped (my train of thinking; I didn’t stop walking) and asked myself, seeing that I was already drenched with sweat from my run, did it really matter whether my hair and clothes got wet, whether they were “ruined”? I stopped in my overhasty judgement of the rain as a negative occurrence. I stopped and the rain became a gift.
Suddenly every drop of rain was like the tiny pinprick of a diamond and I was dazzling, adorned with their light. Every drop was a pinprick of love, for love does not always (does not often) come in the shape it was intended. Every drop became a concrete manifestation of God’s promise to cleanse me, to wash me clean of fear and shame, to purify and create me anew in His image.
And what’s more? I was sticky and hot after running in the dry dust of summer, and the coolness of rain felt extraordinarily good.