The Incarnate Word is with us,
is still speaking, is present,
always, yet leaves no sign
but everything that is.
– Wendell Berry, from his collection of poems, Given
What does it mean that we have this capacity to bring into expression what lives inside of us? This precious gift of the word is unique to human beings. And it would be great if there were no such thing as “misunderstanding,” if, when we spoke, we said what we meant and the other person heard it. But we usually find real conversation hard to come by and uncomfortable. It becomes real work to try and find the connection to another person and that in itself is a cause for pain. How can we find the right words to speak?
The Quakers do it by practicing silence before they speak. They have a motto which goes something like this: “Don’t speak unless it will improve the silence.” Out of the silence, a person is able to “hear” what wants to be said. One speaks from a higher place, from a truer self.
Maybe there is a “place” where we are all united; a place where we would all understand each other if we could get there. If we were really speaking out of our innermost being, then we would watch all that separates us fall away. We have spent our lives “creating” our identity, becoming personalities, only to give all that up for the sake of something greater. You cannot sacrifice something you do not have. Once you have cultivated your “self” you have the freedom to lay it aside for the greater good. To this end, we have been created. And it is true that learning to speak the truth, to speak out of our highest selves is fraught with danger. But there is no other way to unite with one another and to bring peace and harmony into the world. There is no going back, really. There is only the way forward.