In the midst of current drama around racism, those of us who’ve not spoken up risk being accused of complicity. I wish to share my process about why I haven’t said much.
One of the four pillars of the Witch’s pyramid is the Earth, the power to keep silent. That is the place where I’ve been sitting for some months.
Dr. King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
While I do not disagree with this entirely, I don’t think we’re “at the end.” Rather, it seems obvious to me that we still struggle in the process. We, on all sides of these issues, have much to learn from each other, and we cannot hear each other if we’re all yelling.
Further, Elie Wiesel, who knows a thing or two about silence and oppression, says,
I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Both of these men know a whole lot more about oppression than I do. They speak from their own experiences. Mine are very different. I consider myself to have had the advantages of white skin in a Euro-dominated culture, a literate woman with a good education, and plenty of all manner of nourishment and caring in my life. This condition has not saved me from struggle and suffering. It has, however, made my life easier by virtue of my appearance and ability to communicate in common parlance within a system.
As these issues have been discussed, both within Pagandom and beyond, I’ve not said much – and those of you who know me know that I don’t shy from stating my mind. I’m not turning away from the problems. The reasons I’ve not contributed much have to do with my reverence for silence, and for what we can learn by listening. If one considers that she has nothing to contribute that might advance the discussion, nothing constructive to offer, then I believe it behooves that person to sit in silence, meditate on the issues of contention, and listen.
As this anonymous quote states: “A meaningful silence is always better than a meaningless words.”
I’ve also sought to learn about the wisdom of silence from other religions.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for instance, says, “Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates a significant impression by remaining silent.”
Rishika Jain says, “Speak only when your words...are better than your silence.”
By his name, Ali Ibn Thalib r.a., I take this thinker to be Muslim, although I could be mistaken. In any case, he says, “Surely silence can sometimes be the most eloquent reply.”
Another spiritual leader whose wisdom I admire, Ram Dass, claims, “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
When I seek insights from poets, I find the words of Emily Dickinson, “Saying nothing … sometimes says the most.”
English Romantic William Wordsworth on silence:
The silence that is the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills.
I’ve also turned to our pagan ancestors for counsel.
“By Silence, the discretion of a man is known; and a fool, keeping Silence, seemeth to be wise.” Pythagoras, c.582-c.507 BCE
Showing that wisdom can be found even in the speech of tyrants, Dionysius I of Syracuse (c. 432 – 367 BCE) said, “Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.” Of course, this could simply be a threat to his counselors. In any case, I find it useful.
And finally, “I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.” Alternatively, “I have often repented speaking, but never of holding my tongue.” Xenocrates of Chalcedon (c. 396 – 314 BCE)
I do know where I stand on these issues, but I have much to learn. When heads are counted in support or in opposition, I will be present.
 I prefer the word “advantage” (“a condition or circumstance that puts one in a favorable or superior position”) to “privilege” (“a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people”). Not much difference, but enough to matter to me. I lucked out in the circumstances of my birth; I don’t feel I have a special right or immunity.