This I Believe

Jeff - Goshen, Indiana
Entered on February 16, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family

When I was younger, I read The Chosen by Chaim Potok. In it, a Rabbi raises his son in silence. It is meant to form the boy’s individuality, and help him figure out life on his own. When he has a question, or feels a certain way, or is confused about something he goes to his father. His father doesn’t speak to him. He is forced to figure out what it means by himself. That’s a terrible way to raise a son. That really scared me. Communication is such a vital aspect of our daily lives, and pivotal in relationships. The idea of not speaking to someone, especially someone that close to you, is unthinkable.

As I come into awareness of my own family and their oddities, I begin to see similarities in values. There are times we don’t talk to each other, for seemingly no good reason. At times we’ve had a long day, or we’re dealing with things, or we’re just not in the mood. At times it’s just unhealthy relationships. I often think it’s something in our genes, though. Silence has become something we need occasionally.

I’ve come to believe in that silence. The purity of the absence of sound. It is the one thing that brings me back to myself. I’ve come to need it. If I go too long in a noisy place, I need to sit with myself in silence. Being alone really helps, but there are those who can be silent with me. The important thing is that we do not speak to each other, about anything.

It’s like when I sit on my old, grey couch across from a friend, as we curl under the blankets to keep each other’s feet warm. Each of us deep in books, with our homemade bread, and our water, evidence that we’ve been there for hours. Edgar Meyer never seems to tire, softly playing Bach in the dim light of my living room. Sometimes silence is just when I am able to walk somewhere with no one but me, or when I get up before the sun, and watch it.

I haven’t always believed in silence, though. It began to occur to me when I spent time at a friend’s house. Theirs is a family I love dearly, but we have our differences. They play games, watch movies, go to work, go to school, go to bed, go to eat, go do this, go do that. Theirs is a house of activity. It is a house of running around, of doing things. It is a house of noise. The noise can be beautiful, but I can only have so much of it. After a time I need to return home. I need to return to silence. This has shaped our relationships in unique ways. It has shaped many aspects of my life.

I’m not always sure what affect this belief will have on me as I grow older. It’ll probably be counter-cultural, but I’ve rarely been afraid of that. It will probably mean more patience. For me and for those around me. It’ll mean a better appreciation of myself. An appreciation for the sounds no one hears. It will mean not having too many kids, not living in a large city, and not having so much of the noisy white noise so prevalent everywhere. Silence becomes an appreciation for those things that aren’t appreciated.

Silence becomes mine, and I believe in that.