From the work in progress Life: A Book About Learning to Live
By Jim Rosemergy
Silence is the language of the centuries to come. ~ St. Isaac of Spoleto, 6th century
Sometimes emptiness is better than fullness. Fullness can get in the way. It has no room to receive what is offered. In this case, emptiness is better; it is more useful. Doorways are empty, and this is what makes them thoroughfares through which we can come and go.
Sometimes silence is better than words, for it is only when we are silent that we can truly communicate with another human being. Our silence allows us to listen, and the other person has the opportunity to express his or her thoughts and feelings.
Songs and symphonies seem to be continuous sounds, but they are not. It is the pauses between the words of a song and the music of an orchestra that make the song a hit or the music a masterpiece. Emptiness is all around us, and its role is more profound than we imagine.
St. Isaac of Spoleto declared, Silence is the language of the centuries to come. He must have discovered that silence is not as empty as it appears. For him, the absence of words or speech must have been more than listening. I believe he found fullness in the emptiness. This is what I have come to believe, thanks to this insight of Nancy’s. “Silence is not the absence of sound, it is the presence of God.” Silence is not thought, word, feeling, or image—and neither is God. Silence is where the answers come from, and more importantly, where the questions are born.
St. Isaac is correct. There is a new language for us to learn. Like any language, it is foreign to us at first. However, this language, silence, is innate to us, but difficult to rediscover. For instance, sit still for a few minutes. Cease speaking. Turn off all sources of sound in the room where you are. This is one form of silence, but it communicates little. Next, consider your thoughts and then your feelings. It can be immensely difficult to “turn off” these “sounds.” In fact, trying to rid ourselves of them often causes them to shout louder and to dominate our inner world. St. Isaac learned to silence these inner “voices.” It was then that he began to learn another language so filled with wisdom and power that he proposed it would become our language.