Monday, January 07, 2008


Old-Fashioned Typewriter & Girl Photo

It seems that after a vacation and perhaps especially after a hectic time like Christmas, we find ourselves nearly wordless. The blogosphere embodies this, as we see people posting less, commenting less, or simply commenting in fewer words. (At least this is how it goes in my blog communities.)

I think this is okay. Healthy. Even desirable. To accept silence.

Regarding silence, Ruth Haley Barton says,

[It] helps us drop beneath the superficiality of our mental constructs to that place of the heart that is deeper in its reality than anything the mind can capture or express in words. It is a place of longing and desire and reaching for that which we do not yet have....When we give in to the exhaustion that comes from trying to put everything into words and mental concepts, we give our mind permission to just stop. We give ourselves over to the experience of the Reality itself. (p.74-75)

I'm thinking that this is a small reason why I first made a commitment to go outside every day, into silence, beginning last January. We need those places where we can be wordless, where we can listen to the voice of God while we ourselves sit quiet, free, and open to a much-needed rest.

Maybe we should simply declare January as a month of wordlessness. Or at least seek out a secret place where we needn't speak. Not even one little word.

Old Fashioned Typewriter photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Blogger Erin said...

On Barton's quote... YES!!!

Someone putting words to my wordlessness is rather ironic.

But, YES!!!

4:14 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...'s such a rare skill and a poorly practice spiritual discipline

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it ironic that I'm commenting on this post...
More often, I turn off the radio in the car, put away the cell phone, and enjoy the silence on the drive.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

I think you're right. I find myself resisting this silence, but after a season of muchness and manyness it's probably what's called for.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Love the image. :)

10:19 PM  
Blogger Marcus Goodyear said...

Whoa. An entire month of wordlessness? I'm not sure I could do that. And it makes me wonder if it's not exactly the sort of idea I should entertain at some point in the future.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Sure, the silence is desirable. Sometimes.

Like Heather, that place has usually been my car. Sometimes I just don't turn the radio on. The last time we drove back from a visit to Kentucky, (5 or 6 hours) I left the radio off for most of it, and everybody except me slept. It was wonderful!

12:02 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Erin... indeed, it seemed odd to put "wordlessness" into words!

Every Square... oh, listening. Now that's not even something I'd been thinking about directly. But of course, it begins with the act of silence!

Heather... funny, yes, to comment on a post about wordlessness?

Maria... the resistance! I believe Barton dedicates a whole chapter to it. Perhaps I'll have to come to that in another post. Why do you think you resist it?

Anna... welcome. This is the place for words and wordlessness (I just love the visual arts for how they "speak" deeply.)

Mark... sounds like a monk's exercise, doesn't it? I wonder what it would be like to go that long in silence. I bet it would cultivate surprising things.

Craver... and when are you thinking it might be better to speak? (I'm guessing that's what you were thinking of in your opening part of your comment?)

4:11 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Well, as we enjoy community, speaking happens. Solitude is desirable sometimes, and community (whether we are speaking or listening) is also a beautiful thing. But there are times that I definitely do not enjoy silence.

For example, when I lock the keys in the car and ask my wife if she has her keys with her, and she simply stands there looking at me like, "You're kidding, right?" In moments like that, silence is usually bad. Very, very bad.

When I say something that is supposed to make people laugh so hard they shoot milk or soda through their nostrils, and instead, they remain as stones... bad. The silence is very bad.

When I hear strange noises in the dark and call out, "Who's there?" and no one responds... again: bad. Very, very bad.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

Ah, now, I'm out of sync with you here. For the last few days I've been desperate to be wordful, diving for books in which to lose myself. I get like that sometimes.

But I understand perfectly what you're saying, and at other times I'd be in full agreement.

3:28 AM  
Blogger Kim said...


1:57 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Craver... you make me laugh!

Lynet... I think we actually may be in synch. I was thinking about my wordlessness and silence. But that makes room for others to speak. Which I think must include the speech of books. (I am also in a time of wanting to read, read, read!)

Kim... :)

7:21 PM  
Blogger Lloyd Irving Bradbury said...

CHANGE is the new word of silence

7:43 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks so much, L.L., for these wonderful words on wordlessness.

This reminds me of what I heard about Thomas Aquinas, perhaps the most brilliant intellect in church history, at least up there with Augustine- I've heard it said. He had some kind of experience after which he thought all his words he had written were worthless.

I am wordy, but really like it better when I am only a little wordy, or better yet, not wordy at all! Ha. I'm violating that right now, so I'd best shut up.

Thanks again!

9:11 PM  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

humph - and just when I start wanting to actually write again - now you challenge me to be quiet and still and listen.......

remember though, I have to live around Craver - so sometimes I must talk just to defend myself...

12:06 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

I heard that.

9:30 AM  
Blogger nannykim said...

Hmmm, guess your comment section wanted me to be wordless!! I somehow deleted my comment. My answer to your post is no, no, no!! I can't be wordless and you must not be wordless!! However YES there is a time for silence and for listening to God. I have to make myself listen---why do we find that hard? But I have to do it
consciously! I walk most days, and I find it a time of refreshment in His Spirit--that is why I love your poems!

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LL -- I have been noticing this lack of words around the blogosphere and wondered as its mystery. It seems to come in waves when we all just don't have as much to say.

Silence, for me, doesn't always mean a lack of words, though, as you and Lynet have both indicated. Words come at us in all kinds of ways, often with a context of relationship. Silence seems to imply an otherwise noisy situation that is just taking a break -- this seems very relational to me somehow. I have felt the need for such silence a lot lately, though I am not exactly sure the "felt need" and the "actual need" have been the same.

1:00 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Lloyd... yes, I think silence really does change us. For we can finally hear the truth that we've otherwise been able to noisily cover up.

Ted... then Aquinas was a true writer!

Susan... oh, please do feel free to speak. We're all on a different journey, yes? (Oh, and you've got to keep up that defense too!)

Craver... heard, uh, what? [Don't worry, Susan, I'll head him off for you.]

Nannykim... I promise I won't go completely wordless! Thanks for your encouragements. And you walk? Isn't it wonderful for clearing away the day?

Charity... I like the idea that silence is also relational. Of course, in a place like the blogosphere, it can be hard to pull that off well. Still, I like that old post of yours about being there silently at the window. And as you probably know I use it from time to time by telling other bloggers, "I'm just here at the window" or "Just tapping hi". Thanks for giving me a way to be practically wordless in my comments sometimes yet relational!

5:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, gosh, wordless? I'd never make it, though yes, my blogging, commenting, and even phoning has been less.

I've been meaning to tell you that I was so delighted when I was leafing through my Discipleship Journal when I was traveling at Christmas and came upon your article on fasting. It was lovely.

9:39 AM  
Blogger kirsten said...

Silence and quiet are so, so good for us.

When words are many, sin is not absent,
but he who holds his tongue is wise.
- Proverbs 10:19

I need to heed this wisdom!

12:27 AM  
Blogger Martin Stickland said...

Wise words and nice photos as alway my dear friend!

8:25 AM  
Blogger christianne said...

Sorry I'm chiming in so late. I haven't known what to think on the subject of silence since I read this post. I seem to go from wordless to crazy-wordy every couple of days. It seems to be the season of my soul to have movement every few days like that. I've come to understand that is the way I am especially through blogging. We can learn a lot about ourselves and others through this discipline of blogging, huh?

PS: My hub just finished Willard's Spirit of the Disciplines, and now it's my turn to re-read it. I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on this subject as I make my way through his section on silence and solitude!

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When January snow is on the ground--none right now in our part of the country--sounds are muffled and absorbed so that silence is richer. I never really thought about it before, but you picked a nice month for potential silence (summer months encourage happy outdoor noise and seem much less conducive to quiet, contemplative solitude).

4:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

.... :)

10:37 AM  
Blogger High Calling Blogs said...

I too have struggled for words and discipline in writing coming through the holidays.

Gordon Atkinson (real live preacher)

3:53 PM  

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