October 20th, 2011

Delicious Silence.

In his book, God was not in the Fire:  The Search for a Spiritual Judaism ( intended to encourage non-observant Jews to return to their faith), Rabbi Daniel Gordis recounts the story  from I Kings, 19, where Elijah, fearing death, since all the other prophets had been killed by the political establishment, is hiding out in a cave, waiting for the voice of God.

In our Protestant Bible we have a text reading "... the Lord was not in the wind,   the lord was not in the earthquake. ....the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice."  Gordis takes the words (kol demamah dakkah) that we translate as "still small voice" and retranslates them as "the sound of delicate silence."  Gordis says that the moment in which Elijah felt the presence of God was "almost" silent.  But what is the sound of silence, if not silence itself?

I like this phrase "delicate silence."  For silence to the objective (or subjective) mind is just silence and must be interpreted, often within a context but sometime without any context other than that provided by the listener's imagination.  Silence can seem "stony," indicating a refusal to communicate, and that is what silence among us humans often is in our noisy age.  Or silence can seem "ominous" as where the sound track goes dead just before the monster strikes.
 
The first few (well, more than a few)  times i tried silent meditation, "entering the silence" was a difficult battle with my mind and ego.  It was like hacking my way through a dense weed patch of wordlessness  for (for God's sake!) twenty minutes.  I have begun to appreciate the silence, to taste it.  And it is delicious,