By Dwight Gibson
These are two concepts I had never connected until CIVA Member Makoto Fujimura got me thinking about it during a conversation at his studio a couple of years ago. Since then he’s written a book on the topic and created a website silenceandbeauty.com to guide others into this seemingly contradictory world.
For good measure, Mako also enjoyed the opportunity to be a special advisor to Martin Scorsese on the just-released movie Silence.
Beauty coming from God is easy for me to understand. I see it even now as I look out the window at the trees of winter and the clear blue January sky. Whether it is God’s work of art in nature, the handiwork of an artist, or the beauty in the melody of a song, it is possible for me to discover and explore beauty.
Silence is another matter. Recognizing that God’s silence in the critical matters of life might actually be a gift from God has often been hard for me to appreciate, much less see as a gift.
This past year was one when God was silent—or so it seemed to me anyway. The year’s many ups and downs—some personal, some global—left me confused and uncertain. Sometimes I just wanted to laugh, but laughter was not forthcoming. In its place what I found was silence—even in my prayers. My prayers were earnest: prayers for deliverance, answers, and clarity. Instead I waited, wondering what was next and if there would even be a next. I told my wife I felt alone, but somehow in it all I still knew God was there, even though silent.
Based on my earlier conversation with Mako, I had obtained the book Silence by the Japanese writer Shusaku Endo, the book upon which the new movie Silence is based and from where Mako’s thinking about Silence and Beauty initiated, when he spent six years in Japan as a young man, studying the ancient Japanese art technique of Nihonga.
I read the book in November on a return flight from China to the United States, wishing I had read it in January. If I had read Silence earlier in the year I might have seen “the great silence of 2016” as a gift from God and not just a test to endure! But then again, maybe I needed to experience the silence of God in order to understand the “silence and beauty of God.”
Today as I write, the voice of God, while I know it is present, still seems silent most days. I’ve now read Mako’s book Silence and Beauty and spent time on his website digging deeper into this mysterious experience where God is speaking to me even in the midst of the silence. What I can now see is that 2016 was a year where I was cleansed of the extras in my life to prepare me for the next steps in my journey. Such purges are painful because we often must give up what we love for what is ultimately best. To use a phrase from the world of exploring, “I lightened the load.”
And in that I discovered the beauty of silence.
Dwight Gibson is a historical futurist and an advocate for the restoration of vocational exploration for business in the twenty-first century. His consultancy, The Exploration Group, guides executives on growth and discovery expeditions in the model of the Great Explorers. Follow him at exploradelphia.com.