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We have reached the end of privatized prisons in Hamilton County.

The governor wants to take down the Capitol's Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.

Area leaders continue to call for the resignation of county Sheriff Jim Hammond.

And, in a mandate I never imagined in my lifetime, the county mayor declared citizens must wear a mask in public or risk jail time or a $50 fine.

All this in the last seven days.

There is so much to discuss, applaud, criticize.

Today, however, I want to talk about something else.

Nothing.

Today, I want to say nothing.

***

These feel like Tower of Babel times.

There are so many different voices saying so many different things.

We hear medical experts who say one thing.

We hear more medical experts who say another.

We hear conspiracy theorists, politicians, libertarians, activists, Trump supporters, Democratic Socialists, researchers, anti-maskers, mask-wearers, pundits, preachers and fools.

They all say different things.

Like this:

In April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said every American should wear a mask.

Days later, the World Health Organization said masks aren't necessary for healthy people.

Who do we listen to? What do we believe?

Each day, we are buffeted by a dozen winds.

It is exhausting. Everywhere, megaphones. Everywhere, noise.

***

Recently, I have been thinking about this Gospel scene:

Jesus stands before Pilate, his executioner. He is hours away from crucifixion.

Pilate asks Christ: what is truth?

Jesus doesn't answer.

He just stands in silence.

Why?

Why not speak out? Why not answer?

Why say nothing?

***

Jesus could have criticized him. Converted him. Tried to change his heart. Cut him down to size. Even begged for his life.

Christ wasn't a church mouse. His voice — his non-silence — put him on death row. You don't challenge The Man like he did and get away with it.

He stood before Pilate — the head of the region's systemic injustice.

Think of all he could have said. He could have gone viral.

Instead, he goes quiet.

What is truth?

Tell us.

Silence.

***

"Silence is violence," protesters chant.

This is true. The cold violence of silent complicity encourages hot violence to occur.

Picture the coward. He's afraid. He won't speak. His silence allows violence to remain unchallenged.

Yet also picture the monk.

Her silence is different. It's rooted not in fear, but contemplation and reflection.

By staying silent, does she also say something?

If silence can lead to violence, can it also lead to peace? Can silence become justice?

Or truth?

***

Years ago, my mind was so troubled, I began doing something strange: I sat in silence.

With my body.

My thoughts.

My emotions.

Not as they should be.

But as they are.

This is meditation.

My mind? I saw it is often like a housefly on acid: darting this way, that way, inventing, imagining, never resting.

My emotions? I want the world to be a certain way, but it was often another. The result? I feel anger, fear, rage, elation, excitement, deflation.

Oh, my opinions! My beliefs! I have so many, all of them connected to judgment, criticism, wanting the world to be like this. And not like that.

Sitting in silence, I began to see beyond opinions and beliefs.

"Go beyond right and wrong," my teacher says.

But how?

***

Think of a ping pong game. The ball goes back and forth, back and forth.

Now think of your opinions and beliefs.

And someone else's.

Your opinion.

Theirs.

Back.

And forth.

All opinions and beliefs create an opposite: you believe this, I believe that.

Right.

And wrong.

Beliefs and opinions can be beautiful things: they help us envision the world as it should be. Justice, fairness, love for neighbor and self — all these come with a set of beliefs about how life should be.

If only Trump

If only my neighbor

If only my body

That's the allure. The trap.

We get lost in thinking, judging, wishing how the world should be.

We stop experiencing the world as it is.

Our lives become daydreams, fantasies, all giant desires: please, world, be like this and not like that.

What happens when we step away from the ping pong table?

What happens when we move beyond right and wrong?

***

I could tell you my opinions about privatized prisons, mask mandates or Confederate statues.

In doing so, I would pick up the ping pong ball.

Our game would begin all over again.

But the game isn't life.

It sure as hell isn't truth.

I'm so tired of megaphones. So tired of ping pong.

How do we speak about things that matter without adding to the noise?

How can silence lead to peace?

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at dcook@timesfreepress.com.

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David Cook
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