A Reflection on Silence

Silence is a friend and an enemy. I find comfort and camaraderie in silence, yet I also find chaos and void in silence. Silence is like a carnival fun house filled with crazy mirrors. It can show you what you most or least want to see, distort or refine you, shrink or enlarge you, warp or clarify you.

My brain never seems to be silent, which, I suppose, is a good thing since it’s a pretty solid indicator that I’m alive. I wish I could turn off the thinking sometimes. I’m a very analytical person. I prefer thought over emotion. I will sooner think about thinking about emotions than I will engage in feeling emotions. I’ve done myself a disservice in working so hard to silence my emotions, and I find it difficult to reengage with them.

My noisy brain is happy to circumvent my feeble attempts to reconnect with feelings. My nosy brain will mind other people’s business, solve any number of problems, dive into anyone’s story other than my own, rather than answering that question that therapists must have coded in their DNA, “And how do you feel about that?”

Give me the guillotine or solitary confinement or hard labor, but don’t make me talk about my feelings. Let’s talk facts or figures or feminism or fantasy or family or anything but the other F word. I’ll take silence for $1000, Alex.

Sounds thicken the air around us — the sound of the air conditioner, the laptop cooling fan, my fingers clicking away at the keyboard. The cacophony of the crowd at the restaurant, the din of silverware against dishes, the background “music,” the traffic outdoors. The sounds of the weather, the ticking clock, the birds tweeting, the carbonation bubbles in a can of soda (or can of pop, if you prefer).

I wonder what it would be like to sit in the anechoic chamber, in 99.99% silence, with only the sounds of my own body. The articles read as though it is a when, not if, you will begin hallucinating in the chamber. Supposedly, the person who has made it the longest was in for 45 minutes. Nearly pure silence is such an unnatural concept that our minds can’t sustain the reality of it for long, I suppose.

“And how do you feel about that?”

Silence is the space between the notes, a time to count the rests.

Silence feels like a room that I ought to be able to enter, a temple, a place of reverence and peace and stillness. Perhaps I need more meditation or a peace labyrinth or something to help unlock the room.

Silence is absence, the voices that are long gone, the hands and hearts and hugs that are missing.

Silence is an opportunity to listen.

Silence is a cage, a prison, a library.

Silence is freedom.

Silence is expectation, sorrow, hope, regret.

Silence is quiet.

Silence is loud.

Silence is possibility.

Silence is uncomfortable.

Silence is a child’s blanket.

Silence is terrifying.

Silence is beautiful.

Silence is all this and more, and less.

Though I’m not prone to talking a great deal very often, (other than at work where it’s a job requirement) I’ve though about going on silent retreats or having periods of silence scheduled into my life. I’m enchanted by the vow of silence that some religious orders take up. Would being prohibited from speaking calm the inner voice, soothe the inner chaos? Would I better hear the voices of those speaking to me? Would I find greater faith, a more solid foundation, a stronger sense of things unseen? If I were silent, could I avoid more feelings? Ah, that’s probably the truth of it. This idealization of silence is just one more attempt to escape feeling.

“And how do you feel about that?”

I feel like feelings are the worst. Feelings are unmanageable. Feelings don’t respond to logic. Feelings are threatening, unsafe, frightening.

I have this mistaken concept of stoicism as absence of emotion, and it’s a false ideal that I long for. I trap myself in this pattern of denial, of working to avoid feelings altogether. It’s a Sisyphean task. It’s self-defeating.

I don’t think silence is the solution. Words. I guess words are probably the answer. Words to express feelings…ugh. To put words to the things I’d rather keep silent, to give voice to the feelings I try so hard to lock away. To speak of the things that I’d rather keep hidden, to reveal instead of conceal. To acknowledge rather than ignore.

“And how do you feel about that?”

I’ll have to get back to you on that.

One thought on “A Reflection on Silence

  1. Pingback: Story Sessions, Story 101 | my thimbleful of meaning by Mindi Ferguson

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