What do people fear most?
This question has been given many answers: uselessness, death, loneliness, old age, pain, etc., etc. Upon rereading “Silence –A Fable,” I find Edgar Allen Poe’s answer to this question quite interesting and accurate – especially in the context of the modern, largely atheistic, culture that can be found globally.
Poe sets the stage with a nightmarish scene described to him by a demon in a cave: massive water lilies, rain turning to blood, trees whipping without wind, and poisonous flowers writhing along the ground. In the middle of this horrendous environment stands a giant rock with the word “Desolation” written upon it. Upon the rock sits a man, noble, but trembling in his solitude looking at the horrors and agitated landscape around him. The demon hurls many forces of nature against the man to try and frighten him, but the man still remains sitting atop the rock. Finally, the demon:
cursed, with the curse of silence, the river, and the lilies, and the winds, and the forest, and the heaven, and the thunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies. And they became accursed, and were still. And the moon ceased to totter up its pathway to heaven – and the thunder died away – and the lightning did not flash – and the clouds hung motionless – and the waters sunk to their level and remained – and the trees ceased to rock –and the water lilies sighed no more – and the murmur was heard no longer from them […] And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his countenance was wan with terror […] And the man shuddered, and turned his face away, and fled afar off, in haste, so that I beheld him no more (226).
Silence is what mankind fears most.
Man can withstand many calamities, but complete and utter silence terrifies him. In the Old Testament, God’s silence was a sign of judgment. Whenever God rejected Saul as king over Israel, his judgment was shown by his silence. Being made in God’s image, and God being in himself a social being (three in one), people were made to have communion with God and with one another. Whenever we fail in our relationship with God, silence is the result, and fear quickly follows. The badge of Atheist, rather than being worn with pride by its members, should be worn with regret and bitterness. After all, by denying the existence of God, the resulting “silence” eliminates purpose, meaning, and morality from the universe. If I thought I was the result of billions of years’ worth of “accidents” that randomly happened to turn out right so that I could exist for a short lifespan, reproduce, and then turn back into dust with the complete annihilation of not only my body, but also “me,” I, like the man in Poe’s fable, would try and run away. God is merciful, speaking to his people through the Word, and strengthening them with his Holy Spirit.
Silence, whether it is the silence of an empty house, the silence of a dark night, or the silence of loneliness, is never truly silent for the Christian. One day mankind, regardless of his professed beliefs while on this earth, will no longer have any silence. Either he will be worshiping the Great God of all creation, or he will be experiencing God’s fierce wrath in the pit of Hell. Poe’s fable does not give a complete picture of this reality, but ends with the noble man fleeing away, doomed to the silence around him. We, as God’s people, are doomed to no such fate, but can look forward to a time when “silence” will be gone forever.
Poe, Edgar A. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble, 2006. Print.