“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
For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. So Newton says.
That’s not to say that whatever you do, they’ll do it back to you; or whatever you give, they’ll give it back to you. No, good doesn’t necessarily beget good, it does good in the do-er.
Some call it grace; some call it karma. I call it Newton’s 3rd Law. Whatever I do, it applies an equal and opposite force to me. My body’s doings obey the laws of motion, uniquely!
My doing changes me back.
My thinking causes me to think again.
My helping them, helps me.
My ironing for him, smooths me.
My cleaning for her, cleanses me.
My praying, for him, for her, for them,
how to pray, what to say,
what to silence,
when to go, when to stay.
Equal and opposite.
Whenever I give, I get back,
Equal and opposite.
It’s a law of nature.
For my every action, there’s a reaction,
except all I’ve given away.
Not, tossed to the four winds
for others to scrape off the sidewalk,
pluck out of the trees,
or dig out from under.
No, what will be is
what I have left with others.
Given to those
who might enjoy it,
who need it,
who deserve it.
These are my eternity.
Who are these?
Eternal Father, let me see these.