This Lent I am using Sister Wendy Beckett’s ‘The Art of Lent’ as my daily devotional. Each day offers a work of art and a short thought. Each Sunday I will share what has struck me most during the week.
The images that struck me most this week were a couple of abstract paintings, Rebecca Salter’s Untitled H30 and Yuko Shiraishi’s Three Greys. I couldn’t find either of them online, but if you google the artists you will find similar work. They are both composed of different shades of grey, and it would be easy to walk past them as dull and interesting if you saw them hanging in a gallery, but if you really pay attention, they draw you in to discover their subtleties, until you could find yourself quite lost in them. In that sense they are quite pefect visualisations of silence.
However, the reflection that struck me most was inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Tower of Babel, which is of course based on the story from Genesis 10, in which God confuses the language of the people of the earth, leading to a cacophony of noise which is the very antithesis of silence.
Sister Wendy says that “what silence primarily armours us against is Babel, the endless foolish chatter, words used to confound thought, words misused to ward off friendship or attachments, words as occupation”. I like the idea that silence does not just bless us while we rest in it, but strengthens us against the loundness and brashness and busyness of the world we must enter into everyday. It reminds me of the absolute necessity of nourishing and sustaining myself with silence.