It can sound sacred or awkward, eerie or calming, quiet or deafening.
I’m talking about silence.
There’s the silence of an empty house in the middle of July. Everything hangs in anticipation. I listen, and I become more calm and expectant.
Or when you wake up during the witching hour, disoriented, and the world is quiet. You want to fall back into your dreams, not because you want to sleep – but because the silence is disconcerting. It makes you turn, restless, and wonder if the world is really as empty as it feels.
There’s the uncomfortable silence of a short car ride, and the numbing silence of a long one.
Or, worst of all, the silence after someone breaks terrible, terrible news. The dog didn’t make it. Your aunt has cancer. Mom was killed. The silence blasts a sickening concoction of shock, grief, and anger into your gut, and life will never be the same.
Sometimes I wonder – if we were particularly savvy, would we hear the silence between the raindrops? More on that later.
MY ATTITUDE TOWARD SILENCE
Have you ever played the word association game? Someone says a word, and then you say the first word that comes to mind.
When someone says “silence,” I immediately think – well, before I tell you, let me first say that I’m an introvert. Alone time and the silence that comes with it rebuild the fibers that make up my core strength, so the first word I think of when you say “silence” is “healing.”
Because of my affection for silence, I’m never one to speak up, say, when a room of chatty people suddenly goes quiet. I always wonder who will be the first to point it out, and I resent the person who does.
What if we could appreciate that tidbit of silence without mocking it? What if everyone stayed silent for a minute – or longer – in honor of the rare and sacred peace that has descended upon them? Imagine that – spending time with the people around us in absolute silence, without a hint of awkwardness. What would that signify? True ease with our fellow humans. And to collectively acknowledge silence, or any other phenomenon, without explicitly mentioning it? A mark of a close bond.
SILENCE AND NEGATIVE SPACE
Silence in life is the equivalent of negative space in art. In Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards advises novice drawers to focus not on the subject of the drawing itself, but on the empty spaces surrounding the subject. That way, you see abstract shapes. Your mind has no preconceived notion of how to draw these, unlike named objects, which the brain draws incorrectly (as they “ought” to look, rather than as they truly are). How does this connect to silence?
Listen to it. Just listen. You will hear the whole world more clearly.