The Sounds of Silence
“Now what ought we to learn before everything else, but to be silent, that we may be able to speak.” —Ambrose
I often think of some lines from an old Simon and Garfunkel ballad: “In the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking; people hearing without listening...”
Some folks do talk without speaking, having little or nothing to say and taking forever to say it. As a fishing buddy of mine once observed, “Shallow streams make the most noise,” a delightful turn on the old adage, “Still water runs deep.”
But it seems to me that even more folks hear without listening. Oh, they hear the words, but they fail to silence their own thoughts and really listen.
I think it would be good if we all learned to be silent and still.
Not all silence is good silence, however: There is a smug, self-satisfied silence, the silence of detachment; and there is the silence of timidity and self-consciousness.
Good silence on the other hand is a listening silence, a humble silence. It leads to right hearing, right understanding, right speaking. “A man’s soul is like a deep well,” the proverb says (Proverbs 20:5). It takes a lot of hard listening to get all the way to the bottom.
And while we listen to others, we should also be listening to God and hearing what He wants us to say.
I think of Jesus, scribbling with his finger in the dust while the Pharisees railed on the woman caught in adultery. Was he writing the Ten Commandments as some have suggested? No, I think he was just doodling in the dirt, biding his time, listening for his Father’s voice and asking, “What shall I say to this crowd and this dear woman?”
His response is still being heard around the world.