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E-Community: Explore (1)

Monday 23 March 2020

The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, just announced that the country is in total lockdown – effective from midnight on Thursday.

When listening to his speech, a wave of uncertainty filled our household. But, one thought occupied my mind: loneliness and boredom. We – I included – live in spaces that are drenched with entertainment, noise and constant chatter. Truth be told, we really struggle with being silent. And I mean really silent. Sure, we can rest and sometimes detach ourselves from people, but very soon we need the comfort and warmth of community.

About a week ago I read a quote by Shane Claiborne, actually a real simple idea:

“Take advantage of solitude” … “Learn a new skill (I’m learning to blacksmith!) Use this as an excuse to take a retreat or sabbatical, to go camping or spend more time in prayer. Read books. Write letters. Call people you’ve been meaning to talk to for a while.”

At first this was an exciting idea, but as I began to explore it, I became more uncomfortable with this thought. Uncomfortable because we’re not used to silence. But then again, perhaps this is the deeper challenge: we constantly want to fill silence with opportunity. Once again, expecting something: an idea, growth, something new etc. Perhaps the beauty of silence and detachment (the old churchy word for social distancing) is that it is simply confrontational.

And this is what scares us: we don’t want to face the raw silence. Be faced with our past, our fears, our nakedness and our mistakes. Perhaps we’re too scared to hear the voice of God, because, well sometimes, we’d prefer our own voices or the voices of others.

The Exploration

These thoughts led me to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s – now famous – book “Life Together” again. I believe that, if we’re willing, his insights might prove to be profound during this time of lockdown. Bonhoeffer, who is known for his public resistance against the Nazi regime, was acutely aware of the depths of silence: At first during his time in Finkenwalde (a seminary for training students within the Confessing Church movement) under Gestapo surveillance and later during his time of imprisonment and before his execution under the Nazi regime.

I want to invite you to explore Bonhoeffer’s first chapter during this week. Read the chapter “The Day Alone.”

When you're done reading this, return to the E-community: Explore page.

Proceed to Step 2

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