05 September 2015

The Quality of Silence

[I am clearing out some old files I stored intending to post here and then forgetting about them. This one came from my last stay among the monks on the mountaintop.]

The Quality of Silence

We think of Silence, not being able to talk, as a limitation, but it is not. Consider the impact of the 'silent movie' - the viewer pays attention to the exquisite black and white cinematography, the nuances of tone and color, the action. Above all, they explore the contours of each face with a concentration they wouldn't otherwise have. 

Spending the better part of a week with seven strangers who have agreed not to talk is like that. By the end of the first day you know them. By the end of the last day you think you know them better than if you'd tried speaking to them.

Toynbee the Historian and the Seeker

Toynbee was a seeker of spiritual truth. I am not sure that all historians, the good ones anyway, aren't. We understand the small truth of accuracy and if we admit it we understand that this is our best shot at The Truth. We always fail, but as De Gaulle said while trailing through the ruins of Stalingrad, "The Germans! To have come so far!"

Here is Toynbee claiming that revolutionaries, even the bloodiest of them, may be one step from God.

After 'the City of the Sun' has shown itself to have been a 'City of Destruction', the alien light in which it was momentarily and bewilderingly appareled can still be seen shining above the smoking ruins and the blood-soaked sod; and then at last this glory can be recognized for what it is. It is the celestial light that streams from the mansions of the City of God.
Study of History, 6:241.

Needless to say Toynbee, who saw both the Nazis and the Soviets in full cry, would be appalled by society in the year of our Lord 2011. As would Aristonicus, or Spartacus, or Wat Tyler. Or, for that matter, the Man Jesus.

But I could be wrong.