Word and No Word

Hope. Ink on paper.

“Elected Silence, sing to me

And beat upon my worled ear,

Pipe me to pastures still and be

The music that I care to hear.

Shape nothing lips; lovely dumb:

It is the shut, the curfew sent

From there where all surrenders come

Which only makes you eloquent.”

The Habit of Perfection by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Words On

Kierkegaard class with a delightful exploration of words meant to stir,  call and secure the hearer with Christ’s promise of restive attention in our individual burdens and lostness.

Smart lively people, a fine teacher, mindful commentary and a nice group spirit.

Then the pastor’s teaching on an enigmatic passage from Matthew 11. John the Baptist and his dirge; Jesus and his wedding songs and the decision by some to simply watch unmoved. She teaches with her English accent in a way that also hints beyond convention. Ironically, you can get wider audience with a good accent.

Communion at Imago Dei. Ink on paper. Feb. 27, 2011.

Later, working the front desk a man approaches. He starts to tell me about attempting to get SSI. I realize in the first few moments that he has begun to tell me about every injury he has ever had. He is 55 years old and is now at age 5.

I settle in.

I can multi-task. You really can think about two things at once if you do it really really fast in your head. So as I listen attentively to him I am also thinking about St. Jean Vianney, the Catholic saint who listened to people’s confessions and lives 16 hours a day and became famous for it. We need more listeners in the Church…that and a few less preachers. By the time St. Jean Vianney had bolstered me, the man was at age 27 and going end over end off a bike.

Out my fettered window.

H. comes up (a regular) and let’s me hold his $50 while he goes across the street to play $2 video poker. I tell him to leave after he wins.

“But then I can’t play and have fun.”

I look sideways. H likes it when I do my Robin William’s impersonation, so I figure that accent will help.

(As Williams) “H..do this. Walk in and ask everyone to line up..then throw your bills at them one by one. I promise…you will have more fun!”

This actually works. He leaves me holding his $50. Comes back ten minutes later with $8. He says “I told them I had to come back because you are so big!”

“Yessah! My grabbing you by the neck is like being choked by two large steaks!” He busts up.

Still later upstairs,  a brother in the Mission starts in about Imago. “Some chick got up and…”


I cut him off with a grin, saying in my William Wallace brough  (by now you have noted the accents theme) “and lemme guess…she played a song yeh-ya dudn’t dance; did a dirge but you wood naw mourn – bet you just sat there like a speck-tat-tor rright?”


He laughed and that was the end of all that nonsense.

No Word.

But what of Hopkins’ poem?

In this world, with its cacophony of words we need silence without and within. My favorite lines are about “dumb lips”:

It is the shut, the curfew sent

From there where all surrenders come

A curfew sent from the seat of the soul is a powerful thing when it still the tongue. Powerful in its silence and in its faith.

Interspersed with all the words yesterday I had some wonderful alone time.  As silence beats upon the “worled ear” it is resurrected, regains its tonal receptivity and can deliver one to a place of peace beyond comprehension. Mystics have long understood this, but it is available to any man or woman who will simply turn off the tv and sit outback or in a quiet room.

Pascal said the hardest thing for a human being to do was to sit alone in a quiet room. I agree unless God fills that room. It’s okay to have an empty room or an empty heart given a God Who “fills all in all”.

I figure if I can do it here, at the Mission, I can do it just about anywhere except an IKEA.



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