Monday, November 17, 2008

Yes, I Admit It.

With apologies to Lisa Scottoline, I think the cloistered nuns had it right: silence is the way to the soul.

And yes, I do read Lisa Scottoline's column in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sundays. It started because my wife reads it and always has something funny to say after reading it. So I took a look, just to see. And I have been taking a look ever since, just to see. I find that Scottoline speaks a language that is pretty universal, transcending gender, especially when talking about parenthood. She may be a little off the mark sometimes when I think that she fails to understand the deeper meanings of maleness, but her column is called "Chick Wit," so I give her a pass on those times. And perhaps, at those times, I am being too sensitive.

I think, however, she missed the mark this weekend for a different reason. Scottoline started off right on the mark as she described the adult child flying from the nest. I was right with her. Until the end. You'll have to take a look at the column but I just want to focus on the last line. It was one of those lines that people read and then shake their heads knowingly and approvingly while they stroke their chins, yet really do not understand the deeper meaning. Here it is: "...with apologies to my cloistered sisters, I think that voice, not silence, is the sound of the human soul." Maybe it's because she mentions soul, always a dangerous thing for a writer, who risks being called cliche at its use. But she pulled it off because she was quoting the cloistered nuns.

No, I don't accuse Scottoline of cliche. I do think that she sold silence a little short, however. Sometimes silence is a louder voice than words. Sometimes silence reminds us that we control so little in this life. And when we get to a point in our lives, where we think that we should know how to handle any situation but where we do not know what to do or what to say or how to handle that situation, we are given a choice. Speak--and therefore try to impact the situation. Keep silent--and try to accept the situation. To be sure there are times that we need to speak and impact our world. Justice depends on it. But sometimes we need to just be silent... and accept, quietly if painfully. The first is the currency of our world and is good. The latter is the currency of our souls where life really happens, I believe, as do Scottoline's cloistered sisters. And when our children leave, tears are bountiful and no words will help us to understand or control. But quiet acceptance will give us insights never dreamed of. And it is then that we come to accept that our children do grow into adults and that is just plain cool.


Miss H~ said...

An interesting take on the article, as usual. From what you pointed out, I would agree; sometimes silence is the best way to deal with the hard stuff. I can't relate in terms of having kids, but I can relate in other matters. Although, I think the voice has its place too. Finding the balance between the two can be the tough part. Alas, another on-going challenge for us all. :)

Peter said...


Saphron said...

I agree with you 100%. Maybe Scottoline is an extravert and can't quite understand the true nature and purpose of silence.

Have you ever heard of, or read, Eric Wilson's "Against Happiness?"

I know, it's a strange title to throw out there. But it's the book I kept thinking of as I read your (excellent) post.

Peter said...

saphron--I just took a look at the first few pages. Looks pretty interesting. It's not a stretch to say that our society makes it pretty easy to fall into dreams, fantasies and pursuit of stuff, and to believe that this brings meaning to life. I'm with Wilson on that. That we tend to choose the outer over the inner world seems to be where he is going with this, but perhaps I am wrong. The outer is easy. The inner is the messiness of my life, that which I do not want to deal with, that which I do not fully understand. Yet, that is where the real life is.

Saphron said...

I'm glad you took a look at it!

Wilson puts forth the idea that "happiness all the time" is stasis and a type of 'death,' while melancholy is dynamic, ever-questioning, ever-seeking. Happy types don't want silence and reflection, they want talking and the drowning out of things...

I just think it's a great book, a little heavy at times, but more often spot-on, if you're a melancholic.