I completed this Acrylic a few months ago. I imagine a small farm high in the foothills of western mountains. It’s late Spring. As final remnants of a snowfall recede, green grass and first blooms of the new season emerge. We Minnesotans are not quite there yet!
I choose this for today’s Thought—Silence. Why? That’s what I want us to think about. Start by looking carefully at the painting. In Silence, what are you seeing? Don’t rush.
I was conflicted. Which of two would be a best choice for today’s Thought: ‘Words?’ or ‘Silence?’ Two stories may help identify my conflict. But first let’s look at definitions.
It seems to me Silence and Words may be thought of as either antonyms or progressions. As antonyms they represent opposites: we have either Silence or Words. The Words we use (whether we are aware of it or not) I see as a progression from our Silence.
Silence: Someone says: “I spoke too soon: I spoke before thinking.” That’s not the way it normally works. We use Words (in any form) to communicate to another person, the thought or idea in our mind, as completely as possible, into the mind of the other.
Ideas form in our mind. That process takes place in the Silence of our mind without Words in any form (unless you talk to yourself audibly). Most people don’t do that. Silence then gives place to thinking: the action of using your mind to produce ideas, decisions, memories, etc. From this Silence, progressively comes Words.
Words: When we think of Words, we think of either visual or audible ways to communicate with others. Visual markings representing an ‘alphabet’ in a language (or drawings) presented in print, electronically or in other ways are visual examples of Words. Audible is sounds we create with our voice or with some instrument from our environment to communicate Words. Either way (visual or audible) Words begin sequentially from Silence. Now for the two stories.
First Story: Biology 101
It was the first day in Biology 101. Twenty students are in their seats: five at each of four tables. The professor entered the classroom and placed a white plate, with a fish on it, in the middle of each table. “Class, here is your assignment.” He spoke as he wrote on the whiteboard: “Observe and write down your observations. I’ll collect your work at the end of class”. With that he left and didn’t returned until just before the class ended. Within five minutes, everyone had completed the assignment. A student commented: “That was a piece of cake!”
The professor repeated the very same assignment daily for a week or more. Each day the students found new ways of ‘seeing’ their fish. By the end, (they used science instruments available in the biology classroom, researched online and in books) they knew lots about the fish they had identified to be a perch. Each student created several pages regarding their specimen and could speak with confidence on their observations.
Second Story: Jesus on Trial
The second story takes place in Jerusalem near AD 33. Jesus spent a long night without sleep. He was arrested and brought from the hill (where he often gathered with his followers) through the Jerusalem gates (where accusations were being brought against him). I like the way Eugene Peterson’s contemporary language paraphrase–The Message—treats Matthew 27:12-14.
But when the accusations rained down hot and heavy from the high priests and religious leaders, he [Jesus] said nothing. Pilate asked him, “Do you hear that long list of accusations? Aren’t you going to say something?” Jesus kept silent—not a word from his mouth. The governor was impressed, really impressed.
The Biology professor’s assignment required each student to ‘see’ the fish at a deeper level. Then they could apply Words (visually or audibly) to articulate the life profiting assignment. They would never see a perch in the same way!
The Silence Jesus demonstrated gave time for his accusers to consider facts contradicting their accusations: ‘Remember what your prophets said, reflect on these miracles you have witnessed’. Their accusations [Words] rained down hot and heavy not realizing that when Jesus said nothing and kept quiet, he was graciously providing a way to reconsider the Words they might use. They didn’t. We can.
In the quiet of Silence, may the Spirit of this Psalm inspire my/our Words:
10 Be quiet and know that I am God. I will be honored among the nations. I will be honored in the earth. 11 The Lord of All is with us. The God of Jacob is our strong place. Psalm 46:10,11 (NLV)