Étude to Silence


“Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.” – Jean Arp

How does silence affect you? Do you crave it? Find it difficult to bear? Why? Is it harder for you to come by now? What is your biggest obstacle? Do you actively try to avoid silence? Why?

I was asked to elaborate on my statement last week: 

“For the past week, while the kids were on spring break, I had the thirty minute commute to the clinic and back all by myself. I purposely kept the radio off which soon made me I realize how difficult it is to be alone with my thoughts. As my mind began traveling down a path I was not comfortable with I would absently reach for my phone, remember I was driving, then put it back down.”

The striking thing is I had not realized how unused to silence I had become. I am so accustomed now to filling up empty space with minutia at work or checking blog stats, writing posts, answering comments, email, perusing news sites… I had forgotten what it was like to have silence that was not meditation where I actively work to keep my mind free of the clutter. The other interesting thing is that in the midst of this constant distraction I am probably in a much better place than I have been in quite some time.

Where does my mind go when it is free to wander? 

To all of the mistakes I have ever made. 

To everything that has made me sad or angry or humiliated. 

To every love ever lost. 

My head fills with negative thoughts that tell me how ugly or stupid or selfish or unworthy I am. I worry and ruminate and tension builds until I want to cease functioning.

These thoughts serve no good purpose other than to distract me from going forward. So I am working on controlling the negative, forcing the issue of silence. Practicing. Retraining. 



186 thoughts on “Étude to Silence

  1. I have only recently rediscovered the beauty of silence. Several years before my divorce (which was itself 4 yrs ago), my ex began a practice of streaming videos — movies and TV — all night long. He would get up in the middle of the night to restart them, if the playback timed out. Too tense to sleep with his own thoughts, I think.

    I continued the practice, though I think it was more about avoiding painful blank spaces in my head, than negative thoughts. Silence would make me panic, so basically, I filled my apartment with some kind of noise, 24/7, until just a few months ago. Joy beyond description, when I could finally sleep with silence again…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy the moments as a relaxing time to enjoy the beauty of silence in a world too often filled with noise, rather than the beauty of sound. You can’t have one without the other. Silence and sound, integral parts of life–best enjoyed when in balance. Thanks for a thought-provoking question to ponder on a gray spring day.

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  3. Nice! (And I can see that, contemporaneous as we are, if on distant islands, we share common interests: e.g., silence.) Excuse me for, in a haste, quoting from previous quoting, but I must note the wonderful, inspiring chapter on music and silence that closes the Russian-French philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch’s La musique et l’ineffable (1961, Music and the Ineffable). He writes about how, until recently, human beings tried to make sounds (music, conversation) to escape from their anxieties and the seeming silence of the universe and of eternity. (Now many go online and use their cellphones, earbuds, movies, and television programs for the same purpose.) Jankélévitch draws an analogy with a traveler lost at night who speaks out loud and laughs loudly in order to persuade himself that he is not afraid. Thanks to the protective screen of the sounds he is making, the traveler imagines that he is even scaring away the specter of death. But now, Jankélévitch proposes, this situation is being inverted (for the truly well to do or for some avant-garde, I am here proposing).

    “[L]’homme recru de vacarme, se bouchait les oreilles, veut protéger son jardinet de silence, mettre à l’abri son îlot de silence : car c’est le silence qui est insulaire, et non pas le bruit.”(And now it’s the other way round: exhausted by the racket, we cover our ears, try to preserve our little gardens or islands of silence. Because now silence, rather than sound, seems the safe haven.)

    Best, Wm.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, silence is beautiful, there is this very nice place by the hill side from where we can see the sun set over the Arabian sea. We sit on the boulders and watch in silence. It is a beautiful experience:) Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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