I have been thinking a bit about silence lately, it's come up a lot for some reason in conversations around various kinds of religious practice. It is often posited in many circles as the sort of ultimate spiritual practice, and is offered as a pathway to the contemplation or accommodation of mystery into ones life. I can understand the interest, particularly in a world like ours where noise fatigue is a regular aspect of our lived experience, and I appreciate the aesthetic value of silence. But I don't really like the lifting of silence as some sort of ultimate practice in life, I must also admit that conversations about spiritual practices' leave me immediately cold whether they are about silence or anything else. I think silence can be a good thing, but like everything, it has a counter-intuitive element and that is what bothers me in discussions about it, the downsides of silence are seldom addressed, and they exist.
Of course, there are many different types of, and purposes for silence, and I have been thinking about it much less in terms of spiritual practice and more with regard to the silence of things unsaid, and the powerful influence it has on situations. Pierre Bourdieu, the French philospher, sociologist, anthropologist, wrote about the 'world of the undiscussed,' the issues in a conversation or debate that are never discussed, assumed I guess by all parties, and consequently the conversation is rail-roaded by what is not spoken of, by the silence. It seems to me that this is what keeps things in check and perhaps prevents or limits the possibility of change.
There was an article that addressed this issue that I came across via Peter Spear's always interesting site. It originated from Gillian Tett at the Financial Times. Tett applies Bourdieu's theory to her work as journalist, I have been thinking about similar issues with regard to church and theology and decision making processes, and I think the theory holds true there as well, it is what is outside the conversations, that is never discussed, that is really driving how things get done--and it's driving me nuts, because it makes me feel as though nothing ever can or will be different, that the staus quo will win out--whether it should or not, and it pushes me into the silence of frustration, another negative kind of silence.