If you love the truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sun will illuminate you in God—a trenchant saying attributed to the seventh-century Isaac the Syrian, Bishop, theologian, and monk, and regarded a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Such words reveal the unseen caught in the flux of time. Key to this process is passion, whose firelight, like the sun, ignites inner worlds and cleanses them. But who cares to go there—To discipline unruly instincts clamoring for expression? That would be like dying. Such flies in the face of our cultural mores, entrapped in denial, rationalization, and idealization. The predictable is more comfortable, yet soulless.

It does not take much to see who is truly alive among us: their quickening gaze, their resonant voices, their laughter—They just seem to know. During my work years, I had sought out such teachers.

One of these was Ocie, a hospice patient with cropped white hair, a toothless grin, the frayed shirttails of her deceased husband spilling over her shorts. Barefoot, she leaned into her quad cane as she hobbled to the door. Of no importance, her right side shriveled by stroke, her fingernails still dirtied from back-porch gardening.

Hilarity enlivened her cramped bungalow, filled with bookcases of salt and pepper-shakers from most of the States, rusted birdcages she had used for breeding canaries, stacks of faded albums jammed with photos, and a dusty Singer sewing machine half-buried beneath swatches of cloth. As we walked to her kitchen, mating turtles outside the window unleashed her squeals.

Ocie’s ensuing story shimmered with fires of all magnitudes. Like Simon the Syrian’s silence, hers was also tinged by uproar, thereby mirroring God’s outrageous humor.

I still smile remembering her gusto, despite the shortness of her days.