Friday, March 28, 2014

A word from the Dark Side

     Three things crossed my "desk" this week that all, while different, seemed to point in the same direction.  One was an interview with author/theologian Barbara Brown Taylor about her book Learning to Walk in the Dark.  A second was a quotation from an article* by Mark C. Taylor (don't know if it's any relation!) about silence.  And the third was an article on boredom by Karen Maezen Miller.  The theme that linked these together in my mind is that I am (or maybe we are) often prone to view all three concepts (darkness, silence and boredom) with some suspicion.
      Certainly, I want it to be dark when I am trying to sleep.  And, after being in a very noisy room, some silence is very welcome.   On the other hand, darkness and silence -- unless desired -- are things I usually avoid.  And boredom?  Well, as the father of children, it's a word I don't want to hear!  But it's also something I rarely seek; I can't remember the last time I thought, "Gee, I wish I was bored!"
       But Barbara Brown Taylor, commenting on the opening lines of the book of Genesis, pointed out that, when God created light and declared it "good", it didn't mean that darkness was "bad" -- although we often make that assumption.  It is simply that out of darkness that light comes.  And, so, she urges us to embrace darkness.  And I began to relate that to "silence".
       Most musician know that the "rests", the points of silence between notes or chords, are what help give music shape.  I recall an incredible piece by composer Thomas Tallis -- Spem in allium. The composition is for a choir of forty individual voices.  And, throughout most of the piece, those voices wind in and around one another in one of most masterful pieces of polyphony imaginable.  Then, there is a rest; all of the singing of individual lines stops.  And, then . . . all forty voices come in at once; one huge chord.  Incredible what emerged from the silence!
       But boredom?  Miller points out in her article, that, when we're bored, we immediately "go looking for something new.  And, let's face it, we're nearly always looking for something new. . . . Fighting boredom is a full-time occupation."  She offers, as a solution to this unsatisfying pursuit:  "What if we could release the grasping mind that is always clawing after some precious new thing, even if it’s only a new fantasy? That would be excruciating, or so we fear. It’s the fear of letting go that afflicts us, but letting go is pain free."
      It is the fear, too, I suppose of entering into darkness, not knowing where the light-switch is to be found.  Or the fear of being found in silence, not knowing when the next voice might be heard.  But I wonder, if we remain in either state for a while, without flailing about for a solution, something more amazing might be revealed than we could imagine.
       Fiat lux!  Fiat crustula!**

Chaplain Gary

*The article "Hearing Silence" is on the "Tricycle" magazine website, but is only accessible to subscribers.  The quotation that came into my inbox was a "teaser".


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