The Personalist Project

Pope Benedict has prepared a beautiful reflection on the importance of silence for the upcoming "World Communications Day."

It is so packed-full of personalist themes that I have to resist the urge to quote the entire thing.  Instead I'll limit myself to this one rich paragraph.

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other. Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence – indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression. Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved. When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.

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Comments (1)

Samantha

#1, Feb 5, 2012 5:49pm

In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other.

I love this. This is a wonderful topic. It reminds me of Thomas Merton's ideas on the difference between "communication" and "communion." Communion is a different level of exchange between two people. The focus is not merely on the content of the exchange-- the words-- but on the phenomenon of the interaction, the intimacy of the intersubjectivity. So much can be learned in observing silence.

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