Musing On The Quality Of Silence

STOP, LOOK, LISTEN.

A simple instruction that many of us remember from our early years, first as city-dwelling toddlers learning to cross streets or enter a new environment, then throughout the educational phase of our lives as we absorb the knowledge necessary to become an independent adult. Often underrated, silence is the foundation of each word of that instruction.

To stop is to stand back momentarily from everything that has or requires momentum. To take a breath and allow time to slow as you make the courageous decision to subordinate yourself to the needs or requirements of another person, animal, undertaking or event. To do so is to direct all of our senses, not just five but the intangible sixth, to fulfill their innate purpose. Like the color we perceive as white contains all other colors (according to Isaac Newton’s prism demonstration), we might consider that silence, though it suggests the absence of sound, contains the potential for all sounds to be perceived, if we choose to do so. With conscious use, silence can be the epitome of self-control. Silence also provides the side benefit of allowing us to listen carefully and ‘read between the lines’ of our interactions with others to understand more fully the intent of our communications

Once, during a visit with a friend who lived alone in a small apartment, I found it odd, if not disturbing, that her television was playing incessantly. After a while, at my request, she turned it off, admitting that she didn’t pay much attention to it but its background noise allowed her to feel less lonely. I suppose there’s some truth to that idea, yet personally, I find it quite difficult to think about anything within a constant noisy environment. This is especially true in my need for quiet while I am developing a concept for a new piece of art. Ironically, once the concept is established and the mechanics of completion have begun, music or a podcast playing in the background are soothing aids during that phase of production. I suspect this so because situation such background noise seems to neutralize other distractions in my environment thus freeing me to focus on my work instead of responding to it.

The quality of silence is also what we make of it. We can choose to believe we are bored, a state that is terrifying to some so that they require more distraction or stimulation from an outside source(s). Or we can mine it to arouse our patience and to gather our thoughts, consider personal interactions and accomplishments, past, present or future. Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT succinctly defined boredom when she said, “Boredom is {just} your imagination calling to you.” Perhaps your imagination hasn’t received any useful input from you lately? It can only work if you release it from your brain-box to help you discover the potential hidden in your mundane environment.

Possessions are a simple place to begin, such as recalling how a certain object came to be yours and why you’ve kept it. Maybe that object is a particular book, an article of clothing, a piece of jewelry or furniture. How about your ‘to-do list? When was the last time you added an entry to it? Maybe you can try to focus on how to complete an abandoned project or begin a new one?

In addition to maintaining this blog, periods of silence have aided my adjustment after I retired from a long freelance illustration career. In deciding to focus on developing forgotten projects noted over the years in numerous journals, I have kept surprisingly busy writing, illustrating and publishing my own books, creating images suggested in those journals and promoting the many original artworks sitting patiently in my studio.

From another perspective, perhaps your silence can become an internal map that guides you through your own body, examining and mentally cataloguing your physical sensations, which aside from serious distracting pain, can establish a mind-body connection to enhance awareness and evaluation of your surroundings and relationships.

The word ‘silence’ originated with the Latin ‘silens’ meaning to be still, quiet, at rest or without speech or noise, but it is much more. It describes inhabiting a space that allows and enhances concentration, encourages meditation and offers us the chance to think and/or act.

A great deal has been written online and in academic books that describes the nature of silence and its etymology so what I’ve said here may not be new to you. Still, a state of boredom need not be feared but embraced; it can be a doorway to rediscovering mental, physical and creative aspects of yourself that have been neglected to awaken their usefulness.

I like to think of my imagination as a virtual muscle which only becomes stronger with regular exercise.

Move it or lose it!

The images above are from my new postcard collection, Whispers On The Wind: A Collection Of Peculiar Perceptions. Available in packs of 36 or 12 at: http://www.magiceyegallery.com (bit.ly/3gt2gkM)

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