Silence is an Opportunity

Molly - Santa Monica, California
Entered on June 18, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in silence. But not the awkward kind. Nor the obedient kind of silence, characteristic of attentive listeners. Not even the kind found in nature, so often interrupted by the crunching of dried leaves or the chirping of crickets. I believe in pure, peaceful, silent silence – and the relief, reflection, and reverence that comes with it. When it’s utterly silent, one’s internal voice is finally, and ironically, audible. Even more, these thoughts filling your headspace are purely your own. And I take comfort in knowing that.

I’m often the last of my family to fall asleep at night. I’ll lay awake in the wee hours of the morning enjoying the long stretch of silence that is night. Enveloped by silence, I’m forced to follow my thought process along whichever meandering path it may tread. First, I may reflect on the day’s events, embarrassed as I recall “eating shit” walking up the stairs to 3rd period; proud as I remember the praise from my mom regarding my improved grade in Marine Biology. Then, perhaps, I’ll start wondering about the future; about tomorrow, maybe about my upcoming college years, my inescapable mid-life crisis, or whether I should spend my post-retirement years holed up in some homely shack on the Hawaiian coast, or as a tourist, expending every effort to travel the world – first-class.

Only after an hour or two do I start thinking about my life in more general terms – careful not to oversimplify though still curious about the big picture. I’ve even attempted confronting the meaning of life in these silent hours, though such a topic often leaves my internal voice scrambling, confused. But there’s beauty in that too. There is beauty in the mere fact that I have this ever-changing relationship with silence, stemming from my ever-changing relationship with my thoughts.

Thinking is powerful, and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to scare yourself, to worry unnecessarily, to psyche yourself out, or to imagine all-too-vividly that creature behind your closet doors. But isn’t that sort of awesome? Can’t that be fun? I’m always eerily surprised at the extent to which mere thoughts can affect the way I feel. It’s as though, by actively thinking, my thoughts become tangible.

Mostly I think of silence as a cure – offering peaceful guidance to my ambivalent mind, clarifying my perceptions of the world. But I believe that silence is also a challenge. It’s a challenge being forced to deal with my thoughts when I’d rather ignore them; being forced to face myself when I’d rather hide.

But I should not fear silence, even though it can often feel lonely, like a lack of environment. Rather, I choose to view silence as an opportunity for thought. Thought and reflection. And somewhere down the line, I always reach a point in which the silence becomes enjoyable. Inevitably, I find a way to psyche myself in. There, I find peace.

And by then it’s about time to fall asleep.