“Not speaking and speaking are both human ways of being in the world, and there are kinds and grades of each,” writes Paul Goodman in the Nine Kinds of Silence.
“There is the dumb silence of slumber or apathy; the sober silence that goes with a solemn animal face; the fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soul, whence emerge new thoughts; the alive silence of alert perception, ready to say, “This… this…”; the musical silence that accompanies absorbed activity; the silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift and helping him be clear; the noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination, loud and sub-vocal speech but sullen to say it; baffled silence; the silence of peaceful accord with other persons or communion with the cosmos.”
What a beautiful display, like the unfurling of cards in your hand. At first, one, and then one by one, slowly displayed and made available to be played.
Silence, not just one thing but many. Mesmerizing. As in the magical world of The Phantom Tollbooth …
“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.” ― Norton Juster
Ah, the moment after the door closes when you are all alone in the whole house. Silence is so much more than quiet. It is shush. It is thinking. It is fear. It is failure. It is overpowering. It is overpowered. It is expectation. It is reciprocation. It is listening. It is distracted. Isn’t silence amazing?
Goodman and Juster have inspired me to think about the many kinds of Generosity, for “not giving and giving are both human ways of being in the world, and there are kinds and grades of each.”
There is the selfish generosity which withholds because it doesn’t notice need; the generosity of scarcity which hoards and stores, fearing scant days ahead; the glad generosity which gains by opening generosity’s door; the generosity of the perfect gift which smiles in anticipation; the generosity of giving without expecting anything in return; the generosity of listening which, by its attention, strengthens and grows; the shrinking generosity of payment due, extracting joy; the gift declined; and yet, yet, the generosity of spirit, unbidden, uncompelled, offered wholly back to God and to those whom God loves.
Giving and not giving are both human ways of being in the world. Only one remains. It is not the gift God loves, it’s the giver.
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. ~2 Corinthians 9:6-7
We were browsing in a fancy leather store and I had tried on a Prada purse just for fun, but she could tell by the look on my face that I could never go out in public sporting that thing. Too much. It wasn’t just the price, it was the spectacle, the showiness, the ostentation that made me quickly return it to the rack. Not me.
Yet, my generous God keeps giving me stuff I don’t deserve. I haven’t earned it and other people need it more. It’s embarrassing.
But … “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. (Matthew 25:29)
I give. This is My purpose.
You receive. This is your reason.
He who knows the discomfort of receiving that which is not his;
She who receives, not setting it aside until its proper owner comes to reclaim it;
Use your talent for God and God will use it for the Kingdom!
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
“Rats,” said one. This was greeted by a delighted chortle from the backseat, where sat the other, smiling at beating her sister this time to thank Dad for the dinner we had just enjoyed at the restaurant. The rules are: you can’t say it until we return home, the driveway counts, first to remember, wins. No prize. Just satisfaction.
Our oldest daughter started this game years ago. But last night, our youngest raced her to the thanks. She must have been primed for the punch because, the second our wheels hit the driveway, out came the: “Thanks for dinner, Dad.” Then the groan from the front seat, admitting defeat.
I had no part in creating this game. It was all them. In fact, last night I was cautioned because I thanked Dad as he signed the credit card slip at the restaurant. That doesn’t count, I was told. You have to wait till we’re home.
At least I can still play, even though it’s my husband I’m thanking and not my dad because we all call him dad. Even me, when the kids are around.
But today I am marveling at the message in this game, created by the kids, refereed by the kids, perpetuated by the kids: the race to thank their father for his generosity to provide a lavish meal, at no expense to them.
What a meal was set for us at a table in a long ago upper room. By His grace, we get to eat it. And we don’t have to wait till we get home to play.
Thanks, Dad, for dinner.