There is a sort of poetry to silence, when all of life has come to a tranquil halt and we are left with only our own contemplations for company. We never truly experience silence in a natural sense however, as no matter how much we prepare our surroundings the bustle of life still occurs around us. So when I say silence I guess I mean the periods where life whirls around me without my input. What I truly mean by silence is the quiet observation which comes with not engaging with others, but just watching as they chatter and pass by. For me, silence is not the absence of sound but the beauty which unfolds before me when I do not have to speak myself; beauty which can be heard as the wind howls and rustles the world, beauty which can be observed in the motion of people walking past hurrying on with their daily tasks.
If I could accurately describe what silence feels like I would probably speak of how silence is not when there is no longer noise, but how it feels like the peace that comes with accepting that life flows through sound just as much as it does through light and matter. Silence comes when we no longer feel we have to actively produce a reaction to our external stimuli; instead we welcome our detachment from interaction. Silence, for me, is the refuge in which I recuperate and learn, it is the sanctuary I retreat into when all my obligatory communications have faded and it is where I learn the most about myself and others around me.
It seems that we are expected within life to constantly be social creatures; bouncing off of each other cooperatively in our conversations and actions. Nevertheless, this means we miss out on the beauty of observing what goes on around us; we could be internalising all that we know instead of outwardly having to qualify it to someone else. That is not to say that we should not share and be productive with others, yet for me it feels as if to be liked by others in society we are forced to exhaust ourselves this way. What happened to being able to spend time with someone in the moment both appreciating its beauty, both feeling its richness without having to qualify this with speech; without having to pollute an atmosphere with words. There is so much to gain from spending time with someone in ‘Silence’. In a way we get to know them better, we can connect almost without knowing we are doing so and we can begin to understand what it means to be truly comfortable around someone else.
For me, that’s what it comes down to: being are born as communal creatures yet having somehow begun to feel so socially awkward; believing that to have relationships we need to consistently interact with one another, otherwise we feel so uncomfortable. The term ‘awkward silence’ itself implies that when we come to the natural end of a conversation there is something wrong. Obviously there is great beauty to be found within reciprocal interactions with others; there is nothing more interesting than delving into a true conversation with someone, experiencing times where you can talk deeply and intensely about whatever you wish. However there is also something so profoundly fascinating that comes from sitting with someone not feeling like the gap between you has to be filled with anything but mutual appreciation.
Socially this could be categorised as appearing as a very ‘introverted’ idea, but when did we start to feel the need to analyse the way people connect with one another? When did we start to state that people who like to spend their time quietly cultivating experience are a different form of human than those who enjoy the consistent company of others? We are all the same really; we just however appreciate our connections differently. Someone could turn to me and say that peace to them is that moment when they are surrounded by their friends and mid way through laughing. Whereas, peace, for me is when my mind begins to wander outside of the realms of reality and without realising it my linear thinking turns into pondering entirely fantastical worlds. Nonetheless, we should not be frightened to spend time alone or in the company of others without expectation of constant verbal stimuli. Otherwise we may miss out on the true beauty of the moment.
Can we really appreciate how spectacular the sun looks as it sets over the horizon and ponder the world as the evening breeze tangles our hair if we are desperate to fill this air with topic-less chatter? Can we really listen when the birds sing to us in the early hours of the morning if we have the morning news on as ‘background noise’ to our existence?
To live in the moment we do truly have to indulge in wordless radiance. To acknowledge the preciousness of words we have to first understand how idyllically simple life would be without them. To really enjoy every aspect of human relationships we must embrace the ‘awkward silences’ as moments of mutual understanding in which speech is not necessary to bond us as humans; all that is needed is the knowledge of that connectivity. We will not lose time by slowing down our incessant need for chatter; in fact we may even prolong it by allowing ourselves to become lost within observation. We should not be afraid that to not speak to another is to be rude, shy or socially inept. We should embrace the fact that among us there are people who enjoy watching, enjoy contemplating and enjoy the introspection which comes from their peaceful wordless silence.