The other is the loneliness that characterizes life in America today. Mother Theresa, visiting the U.S. for the first time in the 70s, said she had never seen poverty like what she saw here and she meant the loneliness of Americans. The breakdown and relinquishment of shared value systems and traditions, has left individuals adrift in a private search for God and meaning. This is a terribly lonely way to live. In America, loneliness can become like the blueness of the sky. After a while, people don’t think about it anymore. Out of curiosity, do the monks in the cloister watch the daily news? Are you interested in cultural changes in the world?
This says on one level that silence is in our lives to create an ambience of recollection so I’ll remember and honor God’s presence. On another level, silence reminds me that the misuse of words, the abuse of language can also be the sinful abuse of people; silence for us means not talking, more than not making noise… On yet another level, silence means listening. We follow the Rule of St. Benedict and the first word of that Rule is “Listen.” That’s the great ethical element of silence: to check my words and listen to another point of view. I’ll never have any real peace should my sense of well-being depend on soundless peace. When I can learn the patience of receiving, in an unthreatened way, what I’d rather not hear, then I can have a real measure of peace in any situation.
This reminded me of a favorite line in a favorite book, Notice by Heather Lewis. In it, an unnamed young sex worker narrates: “The cover story of all time, that’s what money is. The excuse of excuses no one will question because they so much need to use it themselves.” She was talking about why women trick: “The reason it’s never just once is the same reason money’s only a part of it. Most anyone can take or leave that, though they don’t think they can.”