Studying Silence

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 10 2012 @ 8:34pm


Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston exchanged emails with Trappist monks, the only Western order to practice a "vow" of silence (the "vow" isn't truly a vow and the monks do speak when neccessary). Mesiano-Crookston asked one monk whether he considered his near complete silence a sacrifice. His answer:

The silence which is my natural habitat is not created by forcibly sacrificing anything. When a man and woman meet and fall in love they begin to talk. They talk and talk and talk all day long and can't wait to meet again to talk some more. They talk for hours together, and never tire of talking and so talk late into the night, until they become intimate—and then they don't talk anymore. Neither would describe intimacy as “the sacrifice of words” and a monk is not inclined to speak about his intimacy with God in this way.

Is silence beneficial for all people? I would say the cultivation of silence is indispensable to being human. People sometimes talk as if they were “looking for silence,” as if silence had gone away or they had misplaced it somewhere. But it is hardly something they could have misplaced. Silence is the infinite horizon against which is set every word they have ever spoken, and they can't find it? Not to worry—it will find them.

Earlier coverage of the Trappist monks, inspiration for the film Of Gods And Men, here.

(Image: Aerial, an installation by Baptiste Debombourg at an old Benedictine monastery which he describes as "The mind is everything. The material is the servant of spiritual," via Colossal)