*Brian Wilcox. "Serene & Silent". Flickr.
A Christian scripture that was an inspiration for this series is, "Live in peace with one another," as in I Thessalonians 5.13. The writer was aware, regardless of our teachings of and aspirations for peace, peace, while natural, remains often more an ideal than a reality in many contexts. Certainly, this peace is not particular to any group or ideology, but is our natural being with others, our unity actualized in our discourse together. And how we speak and how we do not speak, both are integral to honoring our togetherness, so inspiring and cultivating the increase of peace. Through speech and silence, we express the marriage of wisdom and compassion, both essential for speaking rightly and speaking wisely, and this rightly and wisely includes remaining silent when silence is called for.
* * *
This peace is deepened when we return to what Buddhist call the Great Silence. The Great Silence is not merely the absence of speech or thought, which is mental speech, but our union with the Wellspring of Life. When there, we cannot say what It is. When we leave, we cannot say what It is. Yet, we feel a relief having visited the Great Silence. We feel a peace in body, a peace effulgent, so touching the lives of others with whom we come into contact. So, Christian contemplatives rightly refer to this as Holy Silence, knowing with Buddhists that we speak here of unspeakable Depths.
* * *
How do we teach right speech in a culture that considers speech first a personal privilege, not a communal responsibility? And that my right to talk is more important than your right not to hear me talk? How do we speak of guarding the mouth in a society always running the mouth? Simply put, is it possible for persons in modernity to see the wisdom of rightly speaking, wisely speaking, and wisely not-speaking as often more important than speaking at all? This needing to be seen, demanding to be heard, this is the fascination with individuality gone awry, as individuality must go awry, seeing the sense of being an individual is sustained by being noticed by others, so adverse to the quiet posture of the one who knows he or she is, regardless of being esteemed as is by anyone else. The individual must speak, rightly or wrongly, and often. And, ironically, his or her refusal to talk can be a step away from individuality to communion, away from the self enclosed on self, to the self-with-everyone. Then, speech reflects and can be a move away from isolation, the endemic state of individuality with its claims to personal rights, including the demand to be heard by someone somewhere almost all the time, to the joy of sharing as we in community, a togetherness sustained and nurtured as much by what is not said as what is said, maybe more so by what is spoken by silence itself. In the Silence I am no one and nobody, so I am one with everyone.