Unlike Simon & Garfunkel who were speaking out against remaining silent over injustices, I’ve grown to appreciate that proverbial Elephant in the Room, Silence.
Silence is one of the great arts of conversation. -Marcus Tullius Cicero
I’ve been pondering the art of silence and it’s how it appears increasingly that people are unable to use it any longer. Between the constant chatter of televisions and radios and the written chatter of Facebook and Twitter, I am forming a theory, one I’m sure that many who’ve come before me have formed, that humans are increasingly unable to handle true silence.
Perhaps this stems from early man, who while walking in the forests would pay attention to the chatter and din of the songbirds and knew that when they fell silent a fierce predator was in the area, even if it was one only a danger to the birds. Modern times find that we allow ourselves to be subjected to a seemingly endless barrage of noise. With all of the cacophony we submit ourselves to on a daily basis, are we losing the ability to understand, listen for and therefore pay attention to, danger?
I often regret that I have spoken; never that I have been silent. -Publilius Syrus
Mr. Muse a few weeks back was stuck home working on a day of the one and only blizzard, so far, we’ve had this winter. He was working away at the dining table, a music station from the satellite playing in the background, and the signal was lost. As I typed here at the laptop, not even aware that the music was no longer playing as I’d blocked out the din, I heard him exclaim that it was “too silent” and he had to knock the snow off of the dish. I laughed. He wanted to know what was funny, and so I explained that day in, day out, when I’m home, I rarely turn on the television or radio. I rarely turn on the lights, very content to pad around quietly, enjoying the silence.
Through my self-imposed silence, I hear the songbirds outside and know when they’re in danger when I “hear” them fall quiet followed by a flutter of wings. I hear vehicles approaching on the road. I hear the dog dreaming and can even hear the quiet “click” that Alex the cat’s paw with the callous makes as he stalks across the wood floor. I hear, and know, the sounds of the house and what are “normal” sounds and what is out of the ordinary and requires investigation.
And Silence, like a poultice, comes to heal the blows of sound. -Oliver Wendell Holmes
Mr. Muse’s dislike of working in silence then got me thinking about conversations with friends, both online and in person, which frequently find me as a silent observer and listener, making every effort to hear, therefore understand, what they are trying to say. Sadly, however, I see friends fill the “silence” in social media with statuses and memes that are hurtful and abrasive, the silence in conversation, what I see as “comfortable”, as something to be replaced with nonsensical chatter or picking up their phone to fill the void. The interminable stream of malicious content and attitude leaves me shaking my head in sadness and frustration and wondering if they’ve become ignorant of their poisonous disposition.
I have found that the unrelenting current of disagreeableness from some people causes me to remain silent for longer periods, observing. Negativity and sour attitudes can be overcome if people choose to put their minds to it, but in many I see them clinging onto those gallows ropes of what they see as their way of feeling alive. The silence frightens them in that if that is all they “hear”, then surely they must be dead. However, I posit these questions: if all you hear is “nothing” in the silence, have you created a danger that others are avoiding? Have the songbirds in your life fallen silent and flown to safety but you were too busy filling the silence to hear the beat of their wings? Have you been left to swing by the noose made by your own hands thinking it meant “life”?
Quotes courtesy of:
In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth. -Mahatma Gandhi