Friday, February 14, 2014

A Battle for Silence

There are two things I love. Well, I mean, honestly there are about a ka-jillion things I love but for this right here I want to talk about two things. A book and line of dialogue from a different book.

The book: Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton.

The dialogue: "Silence, you talk too much." From the thirteenth century French romance, Silence.

In the journal by Ms. Sarton, you can read about what happens when a woman with an abundance of thoughts seeks quiet and solitude. In her solitude she attempts to find her real life.

And in the medieval romance called "Silence," a girl who is raised as a boy is tasked with capturing Merlin and is eventually unmasked. The play on the word silence and the name Silence is part of the examination of the lives of women in 13th century France. And, since the day in Professor Charbonneau's lit class in late 1995 when I first read that line, I have laughed at the recitation of it in my head every time the din overwhelms me.

It's the buzz of my every day world that leads me to want to lead May Sarton's life of solitude. Sometimes I positively salivate at the thought of a quiet life in a small cottage of my own. Where my writing could take center stage, where every whim and deep seated conviction alike could have a moment of careful examination. Because sometimes what we *call* silence is so loud I can barely stand it!

There are phones beeping, chirping, knocking, and vibrating. There are cars driving three blocks to the coffee store, and TVs on at theater level volumes with no one watching. Appliances in my house make noise, my dogs make noise. Everyone is talking all the time and it's perfectly acceptable to "think out loud" every single minute of the day. It is rarely quiet:  actually, truly, definitively quiet.

In the United States, in the unending winter of 2014, snow blankets and blankets and blankets our cities and towns. My own quaint village is currently being covered fresh, fluffy snow. And what I love most is the stillness and quiet of a snowy night. No cars, no dogs barking, no music coming from houses or passing motorists...not even the sound of birds. It is just so silent and peaceful outside. It's almost as if the snow is burying noise.

And I love it.

I want to be on a wooden porch, with heavy woolen blankets keeping me warm. I want a hot cup of black tea in my hands - maybe a touch of bourbon and honey, after all - and I want to take in the quiet. All of it. Because in a normal day we're quite frightened of silence. We fill conversations with chatter to avoid lulls. We say more than we want to say in job interviews if the astute employer knows to let even a 3-second gap occur between question and answer. Inevitably, most people will rush to begin speaking again. Silence is awkward.

Is it awkward because we don't like our own thoughts? Is it awkward because we read negative things into silence? We claim one mark of a good relationship when we boast "comfortable silences" with our partners, but I think the words we constantly spew are far more dangerous. For sure, if we stop talking altogether then we stop growing as a team and we stunt our connections as partners in LIVING, but there is great benefit in the quietude. There are abundant lessons in hearing the sound of only our breath. We can be taught multitudes in hearing only the sounds our footfalls make as we walk along a solitary path.

In the maelstrom of every day life, we can keep "demons" at bay, keep insecurities stuffed and fears smothered by the noise and the chatter. In the quiet we are left with nothing but our monkey minds and frantic anxieties. If we let it wash over us, if we walk right into the solitude, we can find that the Silence really does talk too much....but maybe it's the Silence to whom we should be listening.

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