I find myself with less and less to say.
After those words pass into silence, I wait for hours before the next ones. In the past hour I have spent more time petting my cat than typing.
Have I become hum-drum? Complacent? Cowed?
This week Edwin Jackson, a linebacker on the Colts, was killed in a car crash by a Guatemalan immigrant who had been deported twice already. The original report a “friend” posted said he was Mexican. I tried—and failed—to avoid the comment sections on the article.
What’s the answer to the problem of too many words, too many mouths, and far too many opinions?
It’s hard not to take that problem personally: I’ve blogged for most of my twenties. And even with this recent dryness of words, I consider myself a writer, albeit a writer who, for the moment, doesn’t write very much.
I do my homework in a local library on Wednesdays and Thursdays because the middle school I work at blocks Fuller Theological Seminary’s site while trying to block porn and Buzzfeed from their students. I’ve been going to this library for over a year, but last week was the first time I really looked at the ceiling. I leaned back in my chair—a stretch away from the computer and toward freedom from the dumb things I was reading there—and tilted my chin upward, away from the snoring man in the chair nearby and the other, chatting in a language I didn’t recognize on his phone.
For a moment, I got lost in space and time. Sunday morning church was above me, and I had to look for the bookshelves and study carrels to remember that a library was around me. A church converted to house books. I saw it now: the young adult section took over what would have been the space behind the pulpit. The circulation desk controlled what once was the narthex.
It was a building of boths—both a church and a library, secular and religious side by side. The church was quiet and subtle for now—how rare!—while the library hummed its activity around us. The beep of library cards being scanned, the thunk of books being shelved, the clacking of keys on computers—all protected by that stretched-wood ceiling.
I think for me, this is not a time of many words. The words will wait, like the ceiling. They are patient, firm, and always present. They don’t need a title like “priest” or “writer” to invite them into existence, and they certainly don’t need me to keep them circulating around people’s closed ears.
I have become hum-drum and a little complacent. I have become cowed. But I’ve also become the audience. I’m happy to lower my voice so that others’ can be raised: younger voices still finding the words, the voices of #metoo and #blacklivesmatter. Because the words aren’t begging to be written by me anymore, I can mourn Jackson’s death and the bitterness it causes my community. I can hold my tongue and still judgmental fingers when someone says something stupid on the internet.
And I can feel the words above us all—immanent, pregnant, hungry.
Elaine Schnabel (’11) spent her twenties traveling, blogging, and earning various master’s degrees. Now earning her PhD at the University of North Carolina in organizational communication, Elaine researches and writes at the intersection of religion and communication. You can find her blogging at Religious (Not Crazy).