For “Christian Ethics Engages U. S. Culture,” a course I’m teaching this semester at Mars Hill, I’ve been revisiting the writings and witness of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who stands at the headwaters of what eventually became Christian existentialism. He was a trenchant philosopher, had a parabolic imagination, and, though a lifelong melancholic, delighted in being a gadfly to “official Christianity.”
In Purity of Heart, SK wrote: “When we are thinking of divine things, the deeper the stillness the better.” And, in his Journals, he said: “My whole life is an epigram calculated to make people aware.” These two ideas are inextricably related: if we would serve one another by prompting awareness of what matters, we need to spend time in the depths of stillness.
In stillness, the Spirit can reconnect body and spirit, reason and intuition, intellect and emotion. Stillness gives us the opportunity to “re-member” who we are and who God is; the Holy knits us back together into as much wholeness as is presently possible and reweaves the torn fabric of our relationship with the divine.
One of the best gifts of stillness, of course, is silence. Silence invites us past the cacophony of willful and coercive voices which too-often overwhelm the whispers of the Spirit, who always offers wisdom but never insists that we accept it and who longs to liberate us but will not—cannot—coerce us into freedom. Silence provides the necessary conditions for our hearing the Word which tunes our hearts and minds to resonate with what is real, true, good, and beautiful.
The quiet beckons us into wider and clearer awareness and also enables us to help each other to perceive the enduring in the fleeting, the important amid the urgent, and the sacred which abides in every ordinary thing.