Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Word Born in Silence -- A Writer's Meditation

Pierre Lacout once wrote that “The word born of silence must be received in silence.”

“The word born of silence…” While there probably as many writing techniques as there are writers, this is probably the one thing that most writers share – our words are born in silence. I know mine are. This silence is not a pure absence of sound. Depending on our style and circumstances we may be surrounded by music, the hum of traffic, children playing in another room, the roaring drone of a tractor (for me), or any other of the myriad sounds that go on around us and remind us of our connection to the great human experience.

What I am talking about is the silent, holy hush of dedicated writing time.

Whilst I think about my writing all the time, the time I put aside for intentionally paying attention to it in love results in words that speak to my soul and hopefully the soul of whoever who reads my writing. I think that’s because when we grow silent and still, we connect with the deepest parts of ourselves – and those are the parts that speak to others. As Thomas Kelly said, in relation to the spiritual life, “Deep calls to deep.” I believe that is true to the writing life, too – our deep calls to our readers’ deeps; our silence to their silences.

In the silence and stillness we also reconnect with God, a connection that we do not have when we rush. As the poet Kilian McDonnell says, “Swift Lord, you are not.” The things of the Spirit are not found in speediness and production. We slow ourselves to hear what it is that we are being given to write. We then begin the careful work with word, granted, as we are, the charge and task of sharing it with those who seek communion with the eternal. Our words, in that sense, become sacramental, a means of grace. While that may seem a bit strong – especially coming from a Quaker-type, a member of the tribe that eschews outward observances of anything even slightly of sacramentalism – I stand by those words. Indeed, I do believe that our writing, if the intent is true spiritual writing, is a means of grace. I find good company in that feeling in the work of Leland Rykins, of Wheaton College. Rykins once wrote that, “A means of grace, as I use the phrase, is anything in our lives by which God makes his truth and beauty known to us, and correspondingly anything in our lives by which God's presence becomes a reality to us.”

And so, at table, desk, laptop, or whatever we slowly craft the words that will hopefully help God’s presence become a reality to our readers. Our words, born of silence will be received in the silence of the reader’s soul. They are the gift we give from the gift given to us. An offering, if you will, of soul to soul, spirit to spirit from the Spirit who spoke all creation into being with a Word. A word that is alive and vibrant in us today, in souls that recognize that word even when our oh so rational minds do not. We then – writer and reader alike – experience what William Stafford did when he met his muse --

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off--they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.

The word born of silence and received in silence is a sort of salvation. Let us take the hand of silence now.


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