Spoken Thus Broken

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.


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 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.

15 thoughts on “Spoken Thus Broken

  1. People seem to cope better with silence when it’s voluntary (and when they’re not trying to avoid themselves). Involuntary silence (e.g. in solitary confinement) often unbalances people.

    • “When they’re not trying to avoid themselves.” Interesting! I could write a post on why people try to avoid themselves. I’d be curious to explore that a bit more.

  2. I like the idea of silence but there really is none. Even when I am not talking, cats are purring, whining, cicadas are chirping, leaves are falling, traffic is passing, children are playing, landscapers are blowing.

  3. Where I live Tom, I do find that silence, no neighbours only cows, cows are pretty silent. When I thought of a word to go with silent it was peace. My father often asked for peace and quiet but he rarely got his wish… having nine children. i understand his wish now and I have only two children. Silence is golden in my book and wonderful for writing. I need total silence for that. This post also reminds me in one of my fiction stories my main character is deaf, so I am trying to imagine what that must be like, having total silence, a challenge to be sure. Happy New Year.

  4. i like silence. i value quietness. ’cause then that’s when i’m able to think, and hear my own thoughts to better judge their irrationality.

  5. I love your perspective! Fresh, and thoughtful. I must, next time there is silence in a room full of people, enjoy rather than squirm. Thank you!

  6. Silent and quiet are closely related, but not the same. I can sit silently in a room with just my thoughts, with the just the quiet background noise of my house using electricity. I bought a house in a quiet town, then the town council approved the addition of a mall less than a mile from my home. Both silence and quiet left town.

Leave a Reply