The Sound Of Silence
In Simon & Garfunkel’s unforgettable song The Sound of Silence, the title evokes restless dreams, loneliness, inability to communicate: People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening.
We are essentially social beings: to live, think, grow we need to talk, play, gossip, argue with other people. Just as it is not good for a human being to be alone (Genesis 2.18), so it is harmful for us to be isolated, deprived of the irrepleaceble stimulus we receive from voices, sounds and even noises.
When I think of the sound of silence however, I have another experience in mind.
I lived for almost 30 years in various monasteries where silence was not perceived as a lack but embraced as a soothing space in which to become more aware of oneself, of others and of God.
Over time, I realized that you can literally hear silence. Not the accidental silence of empty spaces, but the intentional, respectful, gentle silence of people intent on supporting each other to create a space of quiet, welcome and self-awareness.
In the monastery all was still but I did not feel lonely. This helped me not to be afraid of sustaining this silence long enough to familiarize myself with it.
When you embrace silence, the train of your thoughts slows down and you begin to think more clearly about your life, your choices, your expectations. You start noticing things that had escaped your attention up to that moment, appreciate the nature surrounding you.
Then silence is no more absence but becomes a form of presence, of being present to the world.
We really communicate only by learning how to be silent long enough to create a space where others feel listened to and can open up with us.
Silence then becomes one of the faces of love.