Silence as Presence


Photo by Clarisse Meyer

By Tim Scorer ~
My wife, Donna, and I spent 16 days in Edmonton in April with three grandchildren under eight while their parents were holidaying in Europe. They had left us plenty of notes on routines and we just slid right into the familiar of their family life.

We also brought along some practices of our own and offered them to Cole, Charlotte, and Clark. One was the practice of holding Silence together for one minute right after the supper and just before bedtime stories. The five of us each chose our chair in the living room, opened the window, got comfortable, set the timer, and listened – deeply. At the end of the minute we spoke about what we had heard in the silence: the fridge, two kinds of bird song, a passing car, wind, Clark moving, wind chimes. It only took one day’s experience of Silence for them to be insisting on our daily minute with Silence.

As the days went by we also started to talk together about Silence being something more than the absence of our talking or a place of interesting sounds we might have missed if we had not been quiet. What if Silence was something apart from the absence of our noisiness?

I had already been thinking about this idea of Silence. In March I was in our minister’s office speaking about a silent retreat I was about to co-lead. He turned to his bookshelf and handed me (with a combination of enthusiasm and devotion) a copy of this book: ‘The World of Silence’ by Max Picard (published 1948). Picard had me from the opening lines:

Silence is not simply what happens when we stop talking. It is more than the mere negative renunciation of language; it is more than simply a condition that we can produce at will. When language ceases, silence begins. But it does not begin because language ceases. The absence of language simply makes the presence of Silence more apparent.

You might notice that I’ve been capitalizing the word Silence, holding my attention to this insight that Silence is more than the absence of words and sound. Like the dark matter of the universe, Silence is a sacred Presence in which, as Paul said of Christ, we ‘live and move and have our being.’ Imagine how everything might change were we to set out to know this embracing and mysterious reality. After all, as the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal observed: “All of humanity’s problems stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Tim ScorerTim Scorer is a spiritual director and program mentor with the Pacific Jubilee Program. Read more about Tim’s spiritual direction practice here. Tim is one of the leaders at two upcoming retreats. Read more here.

The Jubilee Programs offer training in spiritual direction, spiritual growth and soul development. We explore the contemplative life through spiritual practices including the enneagram, integration of head/heart/body, silent retreats, “holy listening” in journey groups and contemplative prayer and meditation. Read more about spiritual direction by clicking on our 3 national programs: Ontario Jubilee, Pacific Jubilee, Prairie Jubilee

If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please be in touch with Julie Elliot, Communications for Pacific Jubilee.


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