The perils of silence: Real and imagined dangers

Read Debra Bendis's sidebar article on making steps toward solitude.

I love silence. Silence and I have a nearly 20-year committed relationship that looks set to continue, although silence is perhaps more faithful to me than I to it. Like most long-term relationships we have somewhat domesticated each other—I am no longer ecstatically “in love” with silence, which can be a harsh and demanding partner. I believe too that it is for me, as marriage can be for many, a necessary part of my own path toward holiness.

I love silence and am continuously thrilled and excited and challenged by it. But almost all thrilling, exciting and challenging endeavors come with risks, even danger. You fall off the cliffs you climb; you drown in the oceans you sail; you become addicted to your “highs”; you break your loving heart. Silence is no exception—it comes with its own specific perils built in. The best protection against risk (and in the end even this may not work) is knowledge—embodied knowledge, the kind where you do not merely “know,” but you also act on that information (you wear a safety harness; you check the meteorological forecasts). You set out the risks clearly alongside the delights and see what you can do to reduce the former without destroying the latter.