Outer fears we’re all familiar with. What with global warming, mass shootings, terrorism, nuclear threats, and entrenched tribal hatreds, we are so inundated by the ubiquity of bad news that the risk is that these fears become banal, so anesthetized by repetition so that we are all at risk of apathy or manipulation by the latest political voice.
But what about inner Fear, the ever-present fear of Silence? We all carry this Mother of all fears, the Void, with its dread consort Father Death behind the curtain.
There are two basic responses to this Fear. The apophatic via negativa of turning into it, sitting with its gaping emptiness, in the Cloud of Unknowing, alongside Merton, T.S. Eliot, the Buddhists, and the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Or the kataphatic way of responding with word and image-making. This way recognizes the ultimate value of our calling to make words, music and images to incarnate our experience. The Word becomes flesh and lives among us.
While these are often seen as opposites they, I believe, are intimately related hidden partners. The pleroma and the animating symbol are a pair! Helen Luke, Thomas Merton and Carl Jung, each in their own distinctive ways repeatedly entered (or dropped into, or found themselves overtaken by) the Silence to listen and attend. Out of this emerged their writings, be it essays, journals, autobiography or The Red Book, and their generative relationships.
Without the integrity of silence, words become noise. Pan intrudes. Without the issue of the word, silence can evade the human necessity of incarnation and can remain in suspended gestation.
So Fear and Silence: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. They keep us listening to hear and dare to be The Word. 1/10/2016 DT