Monday, 16 September 2013


The best book I have read recently is called 'Silence' by Shusake Endo. My subjective definition of a good book is firstly, quite simply, one that I read to the end. Very few books fall into that category, I usually get bored of them long before that. Secondly, it is one that I can't put down, and thirdly one that contains a sentence or more that hits me in the face. 'Silence' met all of these conditions. It is predominantly about the silence of God in the face of suffering. It is also about vicarious representative action, that is - in this context, suffering on behalf of others, even if it means giving up everything you hold dear, even your most treasured theological ideas, and even the opportunity to speak about the truth as you know it -willingly embracing silence so that others may have a voice. It is a powerful, thought-provoking book.

I have thought a lot more about silence in the last few days: silence as a form of speech; silence which speaks more than words; silence which is not the result of being silenced (which is a manipulative, destructive power game) or of punishing another (which is also a manipulative, destructive power game) but a form of taking back power, of resistance, choosing to speak rather than having to speak. Words that come out of silence usually have so much more force, relevance and poignancy and yet silence is not just an absence of words, it is not mere negation, it is communication.

The following poem could be interpreted as referring to the crushing power games or as silence as a form of speech, for me it works both ways.

The technology of silence 
The rituals, etiquette

the blurring of terms
silence not absence 

of words or music or even 
raw sounds

Silence can be a plan 
rigorously executed

the blueprint to a life

It is a presence
it has a history              a form 

Do not confuse it with any kind of absence

by Adrienne Rich, "Cartographies of silence"

'Sometimes...a long time [has to be given] until the right word has grown and ripened. Words have their proper time. Forced words are like broken buds...Openness is something wonderful, but being open for the other, even for the other's silence, is more important.' 
(M-m) Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

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