“Don’t speak unless your words will improve the silence.”
For the past three days laryngitis has made it nearly impossible for me to speak. The few words that I do manage to croak out loud hurt my throat.
Despite my tender vocal chords, Sarah and I were faithful to our planned social engagements: yesterday’s group kayak outing on the Laguna de Sebastopol followed by a picnic at the Balletto winery, and today’s opening of the Sebastopol Farm Market at the town plaza. We agreed that Sarah would talk for me. She told my stories about the stress at work that spawned this malady. As she told them, I noticed how she tinted my stories just slightly, but enough so that they became her stories, not mine.
My laryngitis has reminded me of two things:
- The great spiritual teachers are too dead to talk. Their greatness derives in no small part because they are not here to correct us when we inject into their teachings our own (mis)interpretations. Isn’t it like us to find our own retellings particularly satisfying, agreeable, and meaningful?
- The first independent steps on my spiritual journey took me into a Quaker Meeting Hall where people worship together in silence. I have since gone on many silent spiritual retreats, mostly Buddhist, where I have come to appreciate, keenly, that the third step along the Noble Eightfold Path is Wise Speech. Wise Speech is mostly about refraining from speech.
The wordless flower sermon was one of the Buddha’s most memorable Dharma talks. Perhaps the Enlightened One simply had laryngitis that day.