The Sound of Silence
I believe in the profundity of silence. By listening to its message, we can hear the truth about ourselves and our world.
I recently saw a tutorial on the power of silence at a performance of the Blue Man Group in Las Vegas. The Blue Man Group consists of three men in identical black pajamas, their heads covered in shiny bright blue paint. They express themselves by drumming on oil drums and plastic tubes, tossing marshmallows into each other’s mouths, getting their faces into Cap’n Crunch, and noticing each other in video screens. But they do not speak. Because the Blue Men do not speak, they do not say anything foolish or trite.
This should have been an obvious point, but still it stunned me. How many of us have strung words in bad and boring combinations when silence would have been the better choice?
Don’t get me wrong — I do love words, the curves and lines that turn our animal flesh into humanity. I love hearing good words spoken, whether on public radio or in an audio book or a live stage production. But I also enjoy words not spoken, words that wait for me upon the pale velvety paper of a book. One of the great joys of life is to sit with my feet off the floor, either in the living room, the bedroom or on the patio, reading a great book surrounded by a wall of silence. I am grateful for my silent apartment, for my two silent fish swimming in their tank, for my silent television and silent stereo system and the right to keep them that way.
Most of us don’t know what to do with silence. We push it out of our lives — we wake up to the alarm, watch TV as we eat breakfast, fill our cars with the boom of music and the bombast of talk radio, chatter desperately to people who don’t care what we are saying, accept the intrusion of amplified music in our restaurants and stores, keep the TV on all evening, never once stopping. Stopping, and hearing the silence.
When I step into the neighborhood just to walk, carrying nothing but the weight of my worries, I use this time of silence to think about what I should do next. The past and whatever errors I made there blow away like dust when faced with a sidewalk guarded by the old, solid, colorful homes of Santa Ana and Tustin.
Each step forward is a thought forward. I can hear the wisdom of what I know is true — I need to make more space, both physically and mentally, for my creativity. I need to ask myself what I really want, which more often than not is something that does not have a barcode attached. I need to be me. Just me. Listening to the silence, I have already begun.
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