What is the point of silence?
I sit beside my grandmother and I have to lean in close just to hear her speak. A small, weak voice musters strength somewhere inside of her and comes out in a whisper, slow and through water. I am so close that her wiry gray hair tickles my nose and I can smell her vanilla hand cream.
We exchange simple communication, yes or no questions that require only nods or shakes of the head. I force out a deep, heavy voice, very much unlike me. She calls me Kyle, my cousin, and I smile because I know how much she loves him, and I am happy to be lumped into that drawer of memory.
Then we sit surrounded by the heaviness of silence. For perhaps the first time I understand how silence is not a lack of sound, but the presence of stillness, peace, and a tangible sort of waiting.
Her eyelids grow heavy. Beside her, numerous plates of uneaten food. The second hand ticks along, oblivious to all of us.
* * * * *
“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.” Chaim Potok
* * * * *
I wonder about the nature of silence, of stillness. I wonder about finding it in a world that places such high value on shouting and noise and being heard.
There are, after all, things that I lose when I enter into silence: the ability to defend or explain myself. To petition verbally on behalf of myself or others. To control the amount and timing of attention that I receive.
But is that all that silence has to offer? Loss? Disadvantage? A lack of control?
* * * * *
“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” George Eliot
* * * * *
Maybe if we only value the temporal, the material, then silence is worthless. Maybe if we only find truth in the things that we can see and touch and hear, then silence is a waste of time, a lost opportunity.
But because there is more than what I can see or hear, deliberate silence opens me up to new ways of thinking.
During one windy morning in Tulsa, I walked outside of the bus and sat in the grass waiting for the fresh water tank to fill. I have as clear a memory of that silence as I do of anything else on the trip, because in that stillness I found encouragement and hope and peace.
* * * * *
“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.” Mother Teresa
* * * * *
What is it about silence?
14 Replies to “What is the Point of Silence?”
That reminds me of when Elijah is in the cave. God isn’t found in all of the noisy. He is found in the quiet.
Good call, Larry.
I love this sentence: “For perhaps the first time I understand how silence is not a lack of sound, but the presence of stillness, peace, and a tangible sort of waiting.” And this one with it: “But because there is more than what I can see or hear, deliberate silence opens me up to new ways of thinking.”
The idea of silence has been on my mind a lot over the past week. Noise crowds out; silence provides a path.
Great word today!
“I wonder about the nature of silence, of stillness. I wonder about finding it in a world that places such high value on shouting and noise and being heard.”
I wonder the same thing (when it’s quiet enough to wonder).
You are a marvelous painter of thoughts. You dip into just the right words. I could stand to learn from you.
And rarely is it quiet enough.
Thank you, Jeane. You’re very kind.
In this busy, loud world of ours today, I find that I appreciate the silent moments more and more. I find peace and comfort there. And yet, is it ever truly silent? The rustle of leaves, a bird’s song, the sound of crickets, a bubbling brook… My favorite place to be silent? The beach. I get to stare at the ocean and listen to the waves rolling into shore. It’s not silent, but it is. I’m silent.
I think that perhaps silence doesn’t equal absence of sound as much as absence of noise.
Love the quote by Potok. thanks for posting.
Thanks, Rob. Good hearing from you.
Great post. I love relationships where you don’t feel the need to be filling every moment with words. Silence recharges me.
Those are important relationships, aren’t they? Being silent with others is rare.
Several years ago I visited my mother who was in the hospital’ spending her last few months in a coma. I would set with her, talking to her a little, but mostly in silence.. I had time to think of all the conversations we could have, maybe even should have had, but time for that had passed. Then, the next few hours were a silence where thinking wasn’t so important.
That silence beyond thinking and worrying and wondering is perhaps the most important silence of all. Thanks, Joyce.
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