Very few people like silence. It’s uncomfortable and itchy, filling the heavy air and getting beneath our skin. It just sits there and demands we do the same.
Silence is a fragile tyranny, never far from shattering into a cloud of glass.
The Day of Silence often fails to really live up to its name, frequently co-opted by various groups of various ideologies and becoming, instead, a day of blame, a day of “truth,” a day of snarky T-shirts, a day of argument and name-calling.
Meanwhile, more kids are being beaten and ridiculed for simply existing; more kids are realizing they are something controversial and that angry strangers are, in a way, arguing about them. There is fear and loneliness. There is shame.
Sometimes there is death.
This is why the concept of silence is important. The bitter reality that some children are driven to believe the lies that they should undo themselves, that it would be better if they didn’t exist, should cause us to fall silent. In the face of such tragedy, our words should stick to our throats and our lungs should be robbed of breath.
In light of this, our addiction to saying things, to instantly appropriating any situation to serve our goals, is absurd.
We politicize pain and enslave suffering to protect ourselves, to deflect the immense weight of tragedy before it crushes us. Silence is vulnerability, unburdened air doing little to protect us from the wounds of simply being human.
Permit me a small tangent: This week has been terrible for the US. It’s been a while since I’ve feared my news feed so much. Violence is a borderless disease, and every day I’m more certain of that fact. But the madness of this week has been the daily rhythm of other cities and countries for years and decades. Baghdad, Syria, Sudan, DRC, Burma, and so many more are mired in the dark night of perpetual violence. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by it all. It’s hard to keep the bursting sadness at bay.
I think it’s time we let it get a bit closer to us.
Maybe it’s because I spent a decent part of my life unable to express sadness, but grief is a kind of gift. The unconscious process of bifurcating myself in high school to avoid the obvious reality that I was attracted to men suppressed my ability to feel anger or sadness. The past three years have seen a blessed return of tears, but it’s still a struggle for me. I won’t ever forget the night, two-and-a-half years ago, as I sat tattered and unravelling in a small prayer chapel begging God to do something, when I realized I could possibly cry for the first time in six years. But it was up to me. I could make it all go numb again, return to the dull but manageable ache of denial, or I could dare to acknowledge that I was in deep, tortured pain and unsure if God would do anything about it.
It was worth the cost. I slumped against the wall, shaking from fear and exhaustion, and decided to risk healing.
I’m faced with that decision – to allow the pain and suffering of others to disturb me or to close myself off – on a daily basis. For me it’s not just a choice between crying or not crying (I still rarely do), but about choosing to push into the new growth that began years ago with five tears in that dark, too-warm prayer chapel.
I need to consciously decide to sit with the confusion and sadness because I am all too aware of how easy it would be to slip back into a defensive posture and default to ignorance. It’s a very human, very safe move.
But I’d like to think, and this is where The Day of Silence comes back in, that even in the midst of the unfathomable violence of the world and inescapable display of global injustice, that even in a society drowning in words like “nuclear proliferation,” “car bombs,” “school shooting,” and “yet another,” a young boy getting punched into a locker for being “different” might still cause us great pain.
To fall silent and grieve is not alien to the Gospel; Jesus was dead for more than an instant. In Christian fervor to defend the sovereignty of God or rationalize the presence of evil I think we often forget that, when confronted by great sadness, our tears could preach a more powerful word than a million sermons and our silence could speak of a love far greater than any utterance could bear.
Silence and grief compose an overture to redemption, a defiant pronouncement that the unremitting insanity of the world has neither robbed us of the ability to share the pain of strangers nor weakened our resolve to love our neighbor and work toward a future in which suicide and bullying are no longer looming threats to our children.
I wish I had more to say or offer, but I guess today, of all days, is a good day to just leave it at that.