The Significance of Silence

August 18, 2009

Words are the upsurge of silence. Indeed, all human expression is in a peculiar but definite way attended and upheld by silence, which both precedes and follows expression.

We are so used to trafficking in words that we rarely pause to pay attention to silence itself. The overwhelming technical advances in speed, amplification, and access that are enhanced by our control and manipulation of words and images only increase our infatuation and addiction. No doubt this is both unavoidable and fulfilling since we find ourselves in expression.

What we are in danger of losing amid the deluge of technologically expanded instruments for communication is a centuries old tradition of immersing ourselves in silence as another major means of discovering ourselves, the world and reality. It is certainly true that our modern Western culture has virtually eliminated any consistent times and spaces in which we could even experience silence, by which I mean not just being quiet and not talking but engaging deeply with silence on its own terms.

More importantly, we have lost the language of silence, if I may put it that way. Say we manage to find ourselves in a forest on a weekend, by ourselves, on purpose. Do we even know how to enter silence, to slow down, even remove, the running commentary of the ceaseless flow of our minds? Almost certainly not. Silence is there, of course, but what to do with it; how to access it and understand it?

It is important to remind ourselves that what is most obvious is often the most difficult to get in perspective. Silence is already there, and here, already a part of us. As with dreams, we can go a long way simply by practicing. And the more we practice, the richer our experience.

For more on the value of silence, read Orlando Sentinel Columnist Darryl Owen‘s piece, “I tweet, therefore I am? Just say no, Twitter fiends.”

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