Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

On Silence and Resistance- reflections on Linda-Susan Beard

sara.gladwin's picture

As beautiful as the idea of being comfortable with silence is, wrapping my head around actually performing silent activities is a different story. I was impressed by how fulfilling silence is for Linda-Susan Beard, and I thought a lot about my own restorative practices. For me, talking has always been restorative. Not shallow or surface conversation, but the kind of talking where two people come together form a different kind of understanding. For me, thinking has always been a vocal and collaborative process rather than a silent and internalized one. I was told once that there have been studies done on cats where a cat was placed in a room with no stimuli and they were essentially brain dead- no activity went on when there was nothing stimulating a response. I can’t remember who told me this or even if it’s true, but when I’m alone, I feel like those cats. I feel muted, stunted- that without the benefit of another person to think with me, I’m unable to think fully. After hearing Linda-Susan Beard talk about how fulfilling silence was for her, I wondered if we were both talking about the same kind of restoration, even if we achieved it in different ways. She spoke of feeding off of silence in a way that seemed very similar to how I feed off of conversation; it is sustaining.

The other part of the conversation I’ve been thinking about was her response to my question “What was American Nun’s reaction to being told that the Vatican was assigning them a bishop?” After responding to my question, Linda-Susan Beard turned to me and asked if she had answered the question in a satisfying way. I realized only later that I wasn’t satisfied with Linda-Susan Beard’s answer to question. Not just unsatisfied- I think I was confused. I think I expected her to respond with whatever direct actions the nuns had been taking to resist the Vatican’s declaration, but instead she seemed equally confused by my question as I was by her answer. Thinking about it later, I realized the direct action I was expecting isn’t necessarily an option for the Nuns and that the answer she gave made much more sense. I was looking and expecting a kind of outspokenness that was not at all aligned with the silent resistance we have been studying all semester. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the kind of action Linda-Susan Beard was talking about- subtle and unspoken. And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I understood that the nuns were taking action- in a way that allowed them more freedom then direct resistance. By allowing the American media to adopt their concerns, they guaranteed action that they could not necessarily be penalized for.