Finding Voice, Part Two: The Silence of Absence

Indeed, we biblical myth readers look at his life of silence and view it as a tragedy. Bonsche is totally disconnected from his own needs, from his own story. He is called Bonsche the Silent because he has no voice. His silence is a Silence of Absence. It emanates from the void and is a violation of divine presence.

The Disguises of Silence
How does this first level of slavery-silence play in our lives? Where do we hear the sounds of silence? One of the subtlest disguises of silence can be speech.

All of us, through fear or habit, create boxes of clarity for ourselves that reassure yet limit us. Mendel of Kutzk pleads with us to remember that the Hebrew word for 'letter'—the basic building block of speech is Teivah—by no accident precisely the same Hebrew word that means enclosure or box.

The loss of meaning that comes with the familiarity of speech is one of the subtler and therefore more insidious boxes of the human spirit. Words, with all of their power to reveal, can become hiding places through overuse. Once words and turns-of-phrase become familiar, they lose their associative depth and their power to lead us to the experience they represent. How many 20th-century tired clichés were the dazzling wordplays of the Elizabethans? When it first appeared in Hamlet, Shakespeare's coining of a term like the "mind's eye" was an original, compact, and evocative condensation of a more internal form of perception. Now the phrase is the stuff of hack journalists and junk novelists.

Speech can be nothing more than a noisy kind of silence.

Too often speech about emotions becomes the way to move away from feeling. We can define and redefine vulnerability through words until the truth of what we describe fades away. Too often we get lost in routine speak which, in the language of the mystics, has the quality of noise but lacks the quality of sound. In essence, it is silence . . . silence of absence.

6/8/2011 4:00:00 AM