The Sound of Silence

If you say my name, I’m no longer there. What am I?

There’s something about silence. It falls easily into the category of “you either love it or hate it” that is also occupied by such phenomenons as abstract art, Justin Bieber and broccoli.

Some people find silence incredibly unnerving. The sudden lack of anything auditory puts many on edge or simply makes them feel that something is amiss. Particularly in conversation, it can strike many as completely intolerable. As a result, it is often followed by a compulsion to fill the silence – and banality ensues. I suppose these folk would be the people that regularly tout the phrase ‘an awkward silence’.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed however, it’s that I’m a strong believer in the power of silence. And to be honest, I love it. It is, in a way, bizarre to think of how much can be communicated without a single sound escaping your lips.

A person can be shunned, bullied, excommunicated and emotionally tortured simply through the act of ‘the silent treatment’. In a society in which we rely so heavily on language and communication with others to make sense of ourselves and the world around us, so much damage can be caused by the simple act of denying someone this connection.

But it is not this aspect of silence that intrigues me so much. Instead it is a more positive side. I have noticed in some of my closest relationships that a tell-tale sign of your intimacy and comfort with another person is the ability to be together in silence. To be freed of the compulsion to speak, to entertain, to seek affirmation at all times and to simply be in each other’s company without any sense of discomfort is testament to your connection.

I am not talking about merely being in the same room, but preoccupied with different tasks. I mean the act of standing, laying or sitting with another person, not doing anything else but leaving each other to your own thoughts. And somehow strengthening your connection through the very act of making no effort.

I would never claim to know why this is the case. To be honest, I wouldn’t even really be able to venture a guess. Perhaps it’s something to do with trust – when you are silent your innermost thoughts come to the forefront, and maybe the ability to share silence with another shows that you are willing to be this open with them – but in truth I don’t even want to know why it is. I just know that it is.

And now there is merely silence, silence, silence, saying all we did not know. – William Rose Benét

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