As I write this sentence, very strong winds are creating a lot of ruckus and noise. The weather forecast promises no silence before the dawn. If I really believe silence is golden, why do I live in the Great Plains of North America? The rattling of the windows’ awnings has inspired the contemplation of silence.
Silence is a complicated and nuanced concept. It can be thought of as fearful, comforting, or neutral, depending upon context. Sophocles asked, “Don’t you know that silence supports the accuser’s charge?” Yet we might remember the words of George Eliot regarding silence: “If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.” The neutrality of silence is expressed in the ultimate vacuum of Outer Space.
Radio broadcasters are cautioned against the silence of dead air. Music, commercials, and chatter segue and cross-fade in the battle against silence. I subconsciously took this notion to heart away from the studio. I played music constantly at home, in the car, and outdoors on portable devices. I still drift to sleep at night while listening to auto-hypnosis or soft music on a player with auto-stop.
“In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.”–Henry David Thoreau
Someone who can readily translate the nuances of purposeful silence is a valuable person. Such a person is a good life partner, confidant, and friend. We all have times when our instincts or energy levels instill quietude. A friend is truly special when she does not feel compelled to fill the silent pauses in conversation with nervous chit chat. There are few awkward silent moments with such people. They understand that our silence is necessary.
“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”–John Muir
How often do you travel somewhere near or far in utter simplicity? Sometimes foregoing entertainment and luxury make the journey more profound. A simple stroll through the city park or a basic hike through the forest feels more like going first class than commercially packaged and insulated “first class”. The quiet walks reveal our hearts’ hidden treasures. We are free to contemplate our hopes, dreams, and pleasures while enjoying the luxury of silence. Mindfulness of our surroundings seems more profound in the silence of nature.
“Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”–Khalil Gibran
It occurs to me now, that this little article might be intruding upon your precious mental silence. Each word you read creates mental sounds in your head so I will abbreviate this post. I thank you for relinquishing some of your mental silence today.