After Douglas Christie visited La Perla, a site in Argentina infamous for its role as a place of torture and death during that country’s “Dirty War”, he turned to the writings of Jan van Ruusbroec and Michel de Certeau to help him reflect about his experience. His essay is an exploration about the deep sense of darkness, loss, and absence he encountered there. Instead of reacting with despair and hopelessness, Christie found the experience “unexpectedly fruitful.” Here’s a paragraph from the essay’s concluding section:
I began these reflections at La Perla, standing before the black door, among los desaparecidos. A more abysmal absence it would be difficult to imagine. Nor can anything be said to account for all that has been lost here or give it meaning. Silence here is a gesture of respect. Still, in this particular context, absence and silence have proven unexpectedly fruitful—”compassion and a common shared suffering with all” seeding deep practices of social and political solidarity. Voices arising from the silence to bear witness. I was not alone that day at La Perla. There were others present with me in this place—colleagues, students, and many others unknown to me. All standing vigil together in the darkness. This, it seems to me, is part of what it means to respond to the absence and loss that afflicts us: to descend into the abyss, to inhabit with one another “the dark silence in which all the loving are lost,” and to bear witness from that place of darkness and silence.
Here is the article’s citation:
Christie, Douglas E. “Reading Ruusbroec in Argentina: Darkness, Loss and the Common Life.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 18, no. 2 (2018): 131-151.