Silence

Throughout the weekend, my thoughts kept returning to something Stanley Hauerwas wrote after September 11, 2001.  He said that the horror of that day “requires a kind of silence.”

We desperately want to “explain” what happened. Explanation domesticates terror, making it part of “our” world. I believe attempts to explain must be resisted. Rather, we should learn to wait before what we know not, hoping to gain time and space sufficient to learn how to speak without lying.

Edward Blum strikes a similar note, reflecting on responses to the death of his young son:

Reverend Walton’s text message to me after my son’s death is the only one I have kept: it reads simply, “sigh.” He knew as a father and as a brother that this was not the time to counsel.

It’s impossible to know how to respond to what happened in Newtown, CT.  Desires to explain, to blame, or to speak in other ways can be overwhelming.

Silence, however, may be the best course for now.  Not the silence of resignation or inaction, but the kind that creates space to know how to speak.

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6 responses to “Silence

  • eric boothe

    It seems the wise part of the response of Job’s friends were when they arrived and seen his pain… they sat in silence for days.

  • Michael DeFazio

    Thank you so much for these quotes and thoughts. I’ve been in some conversations trying to speak of how God can redeem this, and while I firmly believe he can/will/is, to guess at what specific goods somehow make sense of such senselessness feels cheap and wrong. I appreciate your silence.

    • timgombis

      Cheers, Michael. It just seems there are so many words and our speaking inevitably falls into well-established patterns that end up somehow . . . diminishing what’s happened.

  • Danny Mortensen

    I think of David Bentley Hart’s little book ‘The Doors of the Sea’ (written about the tsunami from 8 years ago)–

    “Considering the scope of the catastrophe, and of the agonies and sorrows it had visited upon so many, we should probably have all remained silent for awhile. The claim to discern some greater meaning–or, for that matter, meaninglessness–behind the contingencies of history and nature is both cruel and presumptuous at such times. Pious platitudes and words of comfort seem not only futile and banal, but almost blasphemous; metaphysical disputes come perilously close to mocking the dead. There are moments, simply said, when we probably ought not to speak. But, of course, we must speak.”

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