This I Believe

Rosa - Pearland/TX/77584, Texas
Entered on November 2, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: pleasure

I believe in silence.

I love the feel of it, the way that it hangs in the air like mist on the banks of a lake. Moments of great silence can overpower the most basic realities; they have the power to warp time, change perception, build or destroy reality.

I believe in silence because of its totality. In the way that a white light is composed of all the colors on the spectrum, silence is all-encompassing. It goes beyond conversation or lecture by bypassing the limitations of language.

My first memorable encounter with silence came in kindergarten, where it had been institutionalized as part of the judicial system. When a student misbehaved, he was banished to the red metal chair in the back corner of the room and sentenced to thirty minutes of silence. I managed to avoid the throne of shame all year, but I always heard follow-up reports from those who hadn’t been so lucky. Silence, it seemed, was a condition to be feared and avoided.

After my kindergarten brush with danger, silence reappeared to me within the context of my piano lessons. I learned about rests- ½ rests, ¼ rests, whole rests—and I was taught that these planned silences were desirable. They added anticipation and urgency to the composition. My teacher taught me about John Cages, the avant-guard composer whose most famous piece is made up of three movements of total silence. Piano, and by extension music itself, was defined in opposition to silence. Where music ended, silence began; the two could not be separated without unraveling some basic law of nature.

As a high school student trying to share my opinions and ideas with the world, I sacrifice the beauty of silence for practicality. Silence doesn’t win debates, and I have yet to find an English teacher who will accept a blank piece of paper as a legitimate essay. In some cases it is associated with deficiency, a lack of confidence or information. Like all beautiful things, it wilts when exposed to reality’s demands. But the paradox in silence doesn’t discount its importance, it enhances it. In a time when words are so subjective, where interpretation does not necessarily follow argument but instead circles its airspace like an electron cloud, silence carries special meaning. In its emptiness lies truth.