The Beauty of Silence

Last night, we attended a chamber music concert which had a piece noted, by the composer, for its “organized presence of silence.” Unfortunately, we left before it was played, as happens when you have young children who tire easily after a long summer day.

But this notion of the power of silence was compelling to me.

“The silences are very much part of the music,” wrote composer Joel Hoffman in his program notes, “such that the sounding parts of the piece articulate silence and equally, the silent parts articulate sound.”

As a writer, I think more about the words than the spaces in between. But I am a poet, too, and there it is all about the silence on the page, the white space and if I stop to reflect, I realize that the way books are produced and newspapers, too, we are very much aware of white space.

What about person to person, in important conversations? As I am interviewing potential hirees, am I listening to them and observing them as much as I am thinking about my next question or their last answer?

The last time you were in an argument or even a pleasant conversation, did you listen more than you spoke? We are so busy making sure our voices are heard that we forget to hear other people and even moreso, the spaces in between both of us.

Here’s what you find when you stop talking:

* The song of the wind between tall trees, almost deafening.

* An enormous number of birds with very distinguishable calls, crying out from tree branches and fence posts, ardent in their messaging.

* The slither and slip of all manner of creatures you cannot see but share this earth with.

* The innuendo and hope and desperation and joy in conversation between your children.

* The absolute stupidity of what is on TV. (Honestly, why do we watch anything?)

* The way fingers tap-dance over a keyboard.

* A plane overhead, which when we hear it, has already left our perspective. (Yes, I very much intend the metaphor.)

So the thing is, see if you can spend the next hour – the next five minutes, even – sharing space with the silence. Notice the white space around you. See if you can palpably hold the air in your grasp. Notice breath in and breath out. Feel the beating of your own heart. Close your eyes. Feel your presence. Know what it is to be alive. That’s what you’ll find in the quiet, nothing to fear and everything to discover.

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