25 June 2008

the language of silence

In her book, When God is Silent, Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor speaks of "a story from the Sufi tradition about a man who cried, 'Allah! Allah!' until his lips became sweet with the sound. A skeptic who heard him said, 'Well! I have heard you calling out, but where is the answer to your prayer? Have you ever gotten a response?' The man had no answer to that. Sadly, he abandoned his prayers and went to sleep. In his dreams he saw Khazir, the soul guide, walking toward him through a garden.

"'Why did you stop praising?' the saint asked him. 'Because I never heard anything back,' the man said. 'This longing you voice is the return message,' Khazir told him.

"The grief you cry out from draws you toward union / Your pure sadness that wants help is the secret cup / Listen to the moan of a dog for its master. That whining is the connection..."

She's speaking of the words that get in the way of our prayers. But elsewhere in the book, she also comments on the words, the noise, the tide of information that washes over us in today's world. We're so deluged with words that we don't even know how to use them.

When I was much younger (and only slightly more foolish!), I boasted about how prolific a writer I would be. I told people that I would write voluminously; I had so much to say. I have yet to write a book. I need to hear the silence, so that I can speak. Only when we learn the language of silence can we write something truly worth reading. (Or am I just being pretentious?)

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