Both silence and solitude may be uplifting or depressing, depending on the situation, and they can be either willingly sought or unwillingly suffered. Singly or together, both can be sources either of sweet poetry or of gloomy tragedy.
The silence of Quaker devotion is sought out to conquer solitude in all its negative forms: above all that which makes a person feel abandoned by God in the wilderness of life, even when in a large, boisterous crowd, amongst jolly companions, or in the most religious of religious communities.
After having run in vain from one philosophy to another, one religious denomination to another, the seeker may well remain empty-handed, not finding the comfort of a friendly hand conveying a feeling of the presence of God the Father.
It is great good fortune to find out early on that this is not how it is, that God is always near, that he loves, corrects, teaches, and comforts us.
But too many do not know that it is futile to seek Him by the ways of the world, in monuments built by human hands, or by stepping up to a paradise invented wholesale by fanciful teachers of religion. Too many do not know that God speaks more, as people speak less.
So it is the gift of God to find the way of silence, that allows His voice to be heard in every moment, wherever and in whatever state, in collective worship or in feared solitude, above and beyond the sense organs, rational thought, and the dominant culture.
The Lord of Silence waits for you to come face to face with silence, to put it to His and to your service, to conquer the horrors of the excesses of schizophrenic crowds and of isolated outcasts heading for self-destruction.
With Him, more often than not, and even if they appear together, silence and solitude can surpass their own negative aspects.
Livorno, 3 VI 1984
Please send any suggestions for alternative translations of any of these meditations to Simon Grant.