October 30, 2019 // Perspective

The beauty of inner silence in a tango

At a past gathering at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish here in Washington, D.C., there was a demonstration of different dance styles. One of our young adults, Lola, is a student of classical and ballroom dance. She, along with her partner, danced a modest tango in a most elegant way.

What was most fascinating to me was that Lola kept her eyes shut during the entire dance; I wondered how it was even possible to dance with closed eyes. I asked her why she did that. Lola responded that it was easier for her to dance that way; it was less distracting. “I close my eyes so that I can better follow his lead.” She said that this is common in this form of dance.

All this made perfect sense to me the moment she said it. Indeed, all of us must learn this lesson in our walk, our dance, with God.

Scripture says:

— For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7)

— So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. (2 Cor 4:18)

— Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Heb 11:1)

— Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29)

— Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. (1 Peter 1:8)

We, too, must learn to dance with our eyes shut to the world’s disruptions and demands lest they distract us from the Lord’s lead. Jesus said, “You must follow me.” (Jn 21:22); “Whoever serves me must follow me.” (Jn 12:26); and “I know my sheep, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27)

So easily do our eyes become mesmerized by the flickering and distracting lights of the world. Soon enough, in the dance of faith, we get out of synch with the Lord; we stumble or lose our way. Better to close our eyes through careful custody of them and listen to the Lord, feeling His subtle moves and promptings. Scripture says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)

Beware: We are very visual creatures, but our eyes are easily deceived and too easily drawn to what is fast and flickering. Faith comes through quiet hearing, patient listening and experience of the Lord’s subtle moves and promptings. Blinded by the world’s flickering lights, we fall in the dance of God’s love.

Cardinal Robert Sarah has made some important observations about the visual noise of our culture. The following is an excerpt from his book, “The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise”:

“For some years now there has been a constant onslaught of images, lights and colors that blind man. His interior dwelling is violated by the unhealthy, provocative images of pornography, bestial violence and all sorts of worldly obscenities that assault purity of heart and infiltrate through the door of sight.

“The faculty of sight, which ought to see and contemplate the essential things, is turned aside to what is artificial … In cities that shine with a thousand lights, our eyes no longer find restful areas of darkness.

“… Our eyes are forced to look at a sort of ongoing spectacle. The dictatorship of the image, which plunges our attention into a perpetual whirlpool, detests silence. Man feels obliged to see ever new realities that give him an appetite to own things; but his eyes are red, haggard and sick … He is riveted to ephemeral things, farther and farther away from what is essential.

Our eyes are sick, intoxicated: They can no longer close. The tyranny of the image forces man to renounce the silence of the eyes. Humanity itself has returned to the sad prophecy of Isaiah, which was repeated by Jesus: ‘Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand… For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing and their eyes they have closed to me, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ (Matthew 13:13, 15).”

There is great wisdom in Cardinal Sarah’s Book. I concur with Michael O’Brien, who commented on the cardinal’s book in this way: “It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this profound, uniquely beautiful book. Yes, in an audibly and visually noisy world, we must regain our reverence for and experience of silence.”

Lola was right when she said, “I close my eyes so that I can better follow his lead.” 

For us who would seek the Lord and take up the dance of love, we too must say, “I close my eyes so that I can better follow His lead.”

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