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  • pastorourrock

The Sounds That Silence

While not all humans hear at the same level, and some not really at all, there are certain sounds that, when heard, hush even the chattiest among us. Think for a moment. What gives you pause? Which sounds in this wide world in which we live stop you in wonder? The laughter of children playing. The exuberant rush of a distant waterfall. The memory of a loved one’s voice replaying in your head. An exquisite piece of music during which you cannot help but fall silent, eyes closed, hand over heart in awe. A hummingbird hovering just above your head.

These are just a few examples of beautiful, lovely, delightful sounds we might enjoy hearing. But some of what we hear during our life’s journey causes us to clam up in fear or horror or grief. Even though the result is the same – no words! – it is clearly not the same response. A doctor’s words we don’t want to hear. The slam of a door on the heels of an argument. An officer’s news of an arrest or an accident. A bear lumbering in the woods too close for comfort. The “death rattle” of a loved one struggling in the waning hours of life. A declaration of departure from the lips of one who once professed love and loyalty. These sounds, too, silence us when we hear them.

Many of us use words to fill up the silence with which we are uncomfortable. Language in whatever form – spoken, written, signed, embodied – is a gift through which we communicate. But sometimes we misuse the gift. Nervous chatter for the sake of alleviating anxiety. Talking louder than others for the sake of perceived control. Chiming in on a conversation for the sake of playing “devil’s advocate.” Saying something insincere for the sake of saying something.

Especially in our culture, silence seems to be an unwelcome stranger. The news blares. Advertisements entice. Cell phones ping and ring. Game shows roar. Sirens blast. Earbuds entertain. So much noise and so many sounds! Yet it is only in some measure of silence that we hear the steady breathing of a child through the monitor in a distant room or the songs of the birds greeting the first light of a new day or the thoughts and prayers that tumble in our heads and hearts as we stumble in processing, accepting, assimilating the alarming sounds that silence us.

Seeing, hearing, speaking no evil may charm us with apparent wisdom or adorable appeal (monkeys?) but it’s no way to live, really. Sometimes we see clearly. Sometimes we hear plainly. Sometimes we are compelled to speak. Not evil but against it in hopes of silencing its vile sound.

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