[The Lord of Silence: general index]

4    Human words and silence

Rarely are human words rich in inspiration, truth, love, justice and light. Even when words are drawn from Holy Scripture, one falls into error; fascinated by oratorical ardour, the speaker introduces his or her own words. The text is twisted by the charm of a brilliant personal idea or it is bent unscrupulously to demonstrate the justice of a dominating theological concept. Sometimes words that flow freely and easily from the mouth are used against someone for correction - motivated not by care for him or her, but to demonstrate one's own superiority or demonstrate the authority of a religious group.

Silence frees one from the danger or heedlessly, maliciously, or doctrinally using the splendid but dangerous facility of speech to overcome or convince either for good or ill. It reminds one of the responsibility of possessing and freely using such an extraordinary gift. Thus when a worshipper breaks the silence after a long and quiet meditation and after having heard the voice of conscience and the otherworldly and secret word of God, he or she does is with humility, awareness and a spirit of service. In the Quaker world every vocal expression during silent worship is called "ministry", i.e., service. With such a service each participates in the "universal priesthood".

Livorno, Montenero, 28 III 1986

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. ... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne, Devotions, xvii,

Translation by George T. Peck

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