Talking About Silence

It’s ironic, I know–talking about silence. You destroy it the minute you begin. The only thing you can do is describe the negative space around it. Lo spazio vuoto. Everything you don’t say is the thing you mean.

It takes practice. Silence, I mean.

Silence isn’t something most people love, crave, or become terribly crabby without. Enter: me.

You know the story: silence came to me by accident. I didn’t want it. For 14 years, the tv was on, then suddenly it wasn’t. The ticking clocks were deafening, at first. That’s a lot of punctuation. Are they comas, the ticks, or periods? Maybe they are question marks.

It grows on you.

Sometimes, if you dive down deep enough under water that your belly touches the sand, you can hear whales. Really. Who knew? It’s all this silence and then when you’re down far enough to have to pop your ears, there it is: the language with no words.

I love music. I love lights and noise and having 2 or 12 people over for dinner. I love talking and laughing and telling stories. I love saying the funny thing you didn’t expect. I love telling you a story you can barely believe. Silence waits outside the screen for everyone to go home. It waits with the cats who don’t like a lot of commotion either, and slides back in with them during the night.

You can cultivate silence like a plant. Like a garden. You can plant it and reforest the devastation. You can water it in the evening and check each morning to see if it has new leaves. You can wait for its flowers. You can sit in its shade and watch the butterflies. You can find so much richness in its presence that the pain of it thickens into love. Believe me.

Sometimes I am the one who talks too much, who shouldn’t have started in on that story in the first place. Or who throws out a comment that seems like it’s going to be clever until it hits the air. But not always.

Sometimes I am the one who can’t think of one thing to say. I believe in comfortable silence. We don’t have to talk all the time any more than we have to eat all the time. Why? Can we ever just leave our mouths at rest the way we prop up our feet? I think so. Sometimes there is nothing in me that wants out. Everything is ok where it is. Or I am waiting to know what I mean before I start talking.

Surfing is silent. It can be, anyway. That’s the way I like it. I’m not a chatty surfer. If you can get 4 sentences out of me before I paddle away, you should feel special. It’s easier to pay attention when you’re not using your mouth. That’s about a lot more than surfing.

It’s like your soul condenses in silence. It becomes thicker and contains more of the essential ingredient–the thing it is. More of a bisque and less of a broth.

Turn off the noise and listen to the wind. Or the clock. Or the birds. Don’t speak. Nothing going in. Nothing going out. Stasis.

“What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your full love.” Thank you, Rilke. Silence become anything but boring.

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