Holy Silence

There is something very special about being able to be quiet with someone else. Settling in and being able to be just present to life with them. Not feeling like you have to fill all your time with chatter, not feeling like something is wrong if for a while you don’t talk.

I get it. In a society so heavy with admonishments to always be doing something – or, at very least, consuming something – it’s easy to become uncomfortable without constant stimulation. For most of us, being quiet with ourselves is a nigh on unaccomplishable feat, let alone attempting quiet with other people. If we’re not constantly interacting physically or verbally, how will we avoid being boring? How will we keep the other person from thinking we’re bored of them? Even many spaces where silence is valued are focused almost solely on being silent with yourself. While that sort of silence is also really valuable, comfortable silence between two people is a particularly beautiful thing.

There is a closeness in comfortable silence between people, a feeling of being linked together in a way that is both before and beyond words. This silence is holy. It is the experience of existing with another person and feeling connected to them on a level that is inaccessible with only words. Among the more obvious examples of this are the moments just before sleep and just upon waking up, laying in bed with a lover and dreamily sensing one another, seeing one another as whole, beautiful beings. However, I think it is foolish to suggest that people must share a bed or, really, even a sexual relationship in order to have this type of intimacy.

As a culture we’re very used to thinking of intimacy as the sole province of romantic – or at very least, sexual – relationships. By extension, even when we reorient ourselves to view intimacy of that nature as holy, we do not always extend that view to the multitude of ways in which people are non-romantically/sexually intimate with one another. This I believe is a serious mistake. Of course it is necessary and important for us to move toward affirming a wide variety of sexual and romantic relationships, and of course we should make note of the holiness of physical, sexual intimacy, but can we really say that this is enough? What of those who are never partnered and those who have no desire to be? How does this framing fit with those who have more than one partner? Further, what damage might we do if we proclaim the importance and holiness of romantic and sexual relationships without being sure to note the divinity of friendship and genuine human care.

When we are able to be silent together I think we are more readily able to feel the Divine in one another. I know that that is true for me. I have felt the Divine – the feeling I know that I can call God – in the sleepy lulls of late night conversations and in moments of tear-stained silence in cars, living rooms, and counseling offices alike. I’ve felt it as I tip-toed around my sleeping friends, and while laying on a hill in the sun listening to music together. These moments are intimate, and they are holy. I would do a disservice to them, myself, and the Divine if I were to say otherwise.

 

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