Category: Silence


AMDG

There is a tribe in South Sudan which is called the Mabaan Tribe and they are known as a quiet and peaceful people. They don’t use guns or drums, unlike neighbouring tribes, and are famous for their ability to listen. An American study on them was made in the 1960’s by Samuel Rosen.  It was discovered that the hearing of Mabaan tribe members at the age of 70 was superior to that of Americans in their twenties.    2 Mabaans standing 300 ft apart to each other could carry on a conversation in soft voices, with their backs.  Their extraordinary preservation of hearing was partly due to their low-fat diet and mainly that they lived in such a quiet environment. The human ear has not evolved yet to cope with the noise that it is subjected too.

According to the UN, ten years ago humanity passed a significant threshold. In 2008, for the first time, the world’s population was evenly split between urban and rural areas. Since then the urban population has outstripped the rural populations.  There were more than 400 cities over 1 million and 19 over 10 million. More developed nations were about 74 percent urban, while 44 percent of residents of less developed countries lived in urban areas.  With the majority of humankind now living in cities in much noisier environments their will an increased deterioration in our hearing.  In cities, this is due to the imbalance in our environment between noise and silence – rapidly increasing the aging process of our complex ears.

Noise pollution is becoming a significant problem and not just in urban areas. Our oceans are becoming noisier – with the phenomenon of mass whale beaching possibly due to the increased noises from bigger boats, more sea traffic, offshore wind farms etc. There seems to be a growing interest in promoting silence.  It is also a justice matter as it is often the poorest who are most affected by noise pollution.

AMDG

360946-jpg-c_215_290_x-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx‘This is a spiritual & cultural artefact’ – was how a producer at the BBC described Scorsese’s recent adaptation of the Shusako Endo novel ‘Silence‘.   A work of historical fiction, i.e based on real characters, about the Jesuits in Japan.  Having seen the film about a month ago, I tend to agree, although the cinema was fairly empty and I notice there is no ‘awards buzz’ about it – I think it will grow in stature and popularity.  I hope it will slowly acquire cult status, it doesn’t have the feel-good, crowd pleasing appeal that LaLa Land has ( and surely people need that in our fragmented times) …. but it has a depth and leaves a ‘haunting’ imprint that will mature over time. Like an artefact it will stand the test of time.

If you think about explicitly Christian films that have gone mainstream, all have differing levels of depth. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, in its own way a masterpiece – has the force of a sledgehammer and I would place it in the Key Stage 3 RE category.  Roland Joffe’s The Mission, slightly more complex interweaving of theology / politics/ ecclesiology maybe would be GCSE, (Key Stage 4) Level.  But Scorsese’s Silence – is certainly A Level (KS5) material – with all its glorious and infuriating ambiguities. Leaving scope for discussion and meditation.

landscape-1482951700-martin-scorsese-silence-religion-on-filmHere in Manchester – many of the students are divided by it, and fascinating discussions ensue.  Some get hung up on the priests apostasy and a sense of betrayal from that, without taking into fact the incredible commitment and self-offering that have got the missionaries their in the first place. In a similar way many of the reviews are polarised.  The more secularised, the less they ‘get it’ – including one absurd review accusing it of ‘torture porn’ (I actually thought the film wasn’t as harrowing as I was expecting). It is as though the sheer fact that you can believe in something enough that you are prepared to die for it. is inconceivable to the more superficial reviews.  Many people (even the usually prescient Robert Barron)  seem to fixated on the ‘apostasy’ element. Which I think misses the point of the film (and the novel).  For me Kichijiro is the main character in the film – and it is God’s Mercy for him , through sacramental confession, this is the most powerful aspect for me.

silence-00977A former student sent me a wonderful email which expresses it like this, “I found myself really focusing on more in the film was the mercy of God, which I think is and should be the big focus within the film and book. The question: How much should I forgive my brother? Seventy seven.  Is something I often thought about when watching this film especially when witnessing Kichijiro continuously plead for confession. For me Fr. Rodriguez and Fr Ferreira are insignificant as for me really the true Christian is perfectly embodied in Kichijiro. As he is what a christian really is: a sinful and weak creature totally dependent on God’s mercy. Interestingly Kichijiro does not really seem to care about human respect or his reputation as seen by his continuous grovelling and humiliating display of weakness before the priest. To me I think the book and film do a great job in showing this about Kichijiro and the mercy of God; but seem to overlook it and get a bit too obsessed with somehow trying to justify someone’s apostasy.    The real question I think is how much are we willing to accept our weakness and plead for forgiveness

Maybe this is echoing Scorsese own life – as revealed in this fascinating interview with the America Jesuit James Martin,  his sense of rejection at a crucial age when he wanted to be a Maryknoll Missionary. He was asked to leave the seminary, and ‘crushed’ in his own words,  and then his ‘pilgrimage’ slowly and painfully from the outside and back to God (?) . Jim has also written a very good  reflective piece on common questions people struggle with after Silence.   So is Silence really about about the Silence of God or the Deafness of Man? .

 

 

 

AMDG

Just sharing a small reflection I gave at mass yesterday to the group doing a 30 day silent retreat.   Giving a homily to a group in silence – you have to tread carefully.  These guys have been in silence for 10 days and you become very sensitive when you have been immersed in silence.  As a homilist  you have to avoid disturbing the silence too much, or creating too much dissonance –  talking about anything that’s happening ‘in the world’, making statements that might be divisive… etc…. 

In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed he would never speak to them except in parables…….

truthWhy did Jesus only speak to the crowds in parables ?

We remember, later on, at one point the disciples, slightly exasperated, ask Jesus – Why do you speak in parables?   And at times we may share this exasperation…..   Jesus’  answer –  touches on the revealing of mystery …. God is a mystery – the Kingdom of God is a mystery – greater than we can ever imagine – it doesn’t fit easily into our ideas… when we make the mistake of thinking we have grasped the mystery we are further away than ever before …..   So parables allow us to touch on that mystery …. parables honour the mystery ….  and allow the truth of the mystery to grow in us … never exhausted ….. never finished…. The structure of the exercises and the silence can help us to become extraordinarily available to that mystery – so we can be changed by the mystery of God, we can be healed, we can be taught, we can be challenged……  if we have the courage to be open

There is a Yiddish story that maybe,  just maybe,  Jesus was aware of an earlier version of …..

Once upon a time Truth went about the streets as naked as the day he was born. As a result, no one would let him into their homes. Whenever people caught sight of him, they turned away and fled.

One day when Truth was sadly wandering about, he came upon Parable. Now, Parable was dressed

in splendid clothes of beautiful colors. And Parable, seeing Truth, said, “Tell me, neighbour, what

makes you look so sad?” Truth replied bitterly, “Ah brother, things are bad. Very bad. I’m old, very

old, and no one wants to acknowledge me. No one wants anything to do with me.” Hearing that,

Parable said,“People don’t run away from you because you’re old,   I  too am old. Very old. But the

older I get, the better people like me. I’ll tell you a secret: Everyone likes things disguised and

prettied up a bit. Let me lend you some splendid clothes like mine, and you’ll see that the very

people who pushed you aside will invite you into their homes and be glad of your company.”Truth

took Parable’s advice and put on the borrowed clothes. And from that time on, Truth and Parable

have gone hand in hand.