The Unheard Questions

February 26, 2009

The sunlight could scarcely come through the tightly drawn Venetian blinds. The room was dimly lit except for the artificial glow of the television mounted high on the wall. The partially drawn blinds of the other wall revealed the inner world of the I.C.U. – the green phosphorous glow of monitors, the scurrying of people in surgical scrubs, and busy nurses.

In this room the urgency of the I.C.U. desk was replaced by the slow, rhythmic, raspy sound of the respirator and the well-modulated voice of an announcer summoning, “Come on down, you’re the next contestant…

The face on the pillow was pale and distorted by the tubes that sustained an unconscious life.

The wife’s anxious voice began, “We meant to call you earlier. He slipped into a coma yesterday.”

A new kitchen featuring a no frost freezer…,” the T.V. blared accompanied by the applause of the studio audience.

“We think he was baptized, do you have records of it, do you remember him?” another interrupted.

“No, I don’t remember him, but I can check the records,” I replied.

“… a portable, convertible, under counter dishwasher…,” the well-modulated voice continued.

“We never really attended church much,” the wife admitted, “we were always so busy. We had hoped that you could talk with him.”

The audience went wild as the announcer exclaimed, “A new car … comes with air conditioning, sports package, and California emissions…”

“Would you like me to have a prayer with you?” I asked, knowing that it would be difficult to find the words.

The prayer was followed by our silence as we stood and watched. The wife caressed the patient’s face and hands and told him, “I love you.”

As we turned to leave the room, my curiosity got the better of me, and I asked, “Why the television?” leaving unspoken the words—for an unconscious man.

The wife replied, “He’s calmer with it on.”

Her answer haunts me. Where is the quiet amid so much busyness and noise? Where is the silence needed to reflect on who am I, why am I here, is there a God, where do I stand before Him? These essential questions of life become the unheard questions, drowned out by the din of modern living, while too many slip “calmly” into eternity.

Create Silence!

February 25, 2009

It was reported in our local news; a teenager was killed by an express train traveling at 70 m.p.h. He did not get off at his normal school bus stop. He likely had his back to the train as he crossed the tracks, and he had earphones in his ears. He probably didn’t hear the approaching danger, and now his parents live with what-ifs.

I sometimes wonder whether we have way too much noise in our lives. If we choose, we can live life without ever having a quiet moment. Maybe the noise of our busy technological lives drowns out approaching spiritual danger or at least the questions that might arise if only we were still.

Kierkegaard said that if he were a doctor and were allowed to prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, he would prescribe silence. For even if the Word of God were proclaimed, it would not be heard or heeded, for there is too much noise and busyness in our world. “Therefore, create silence.”*

What do I do with silence? It can be a time to be honest with ourselves (and God) about what is going on inside. What do I want? Where am I struggling and failing? What brings contentment? It can be a time to think about the big questions of life. Do I believe in God? Is their purpose and meaning to life? What should I do next? It can be a time to pray. It can be a time to listen to God’s word in the Bible. Silence may give us ears to hear the most important matters which are so easily drowned out by the noise of lesser things.

 *Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, p. 35.