It sounds odd that we don’t think it odd to regard silence as deficient and not as full. We fill our ears and the air with banter, music, news, and weather updates until we fall exhausted into bed, the sounds of the day ringing in our heads, and feeling unsatisfied because we have said much but heard relatively little that we want to remember. In the manner of the Quakers, we should remain silent until we have something important to say.
Words and music are powerful influences on us. The music playing in the background of a movie can heighten our experience of it. Often we use music to make life seem fuller, thinking that our walk down the street needs a soundtrack. Sometimes when we’re just chatting with friends, a wrong word is said and our friendship is suddenly put on hold.
It can be unsettling to be home alone without the TV or radio on to fill the spaces. We hear all the sounds of the house--the refrigerator coming on, the house creaking in the wind, the hum that comes from an unknown place, and we wonder if something is about to blow up.
It takes me a couple of days of camping before I can hear the different sounds of nature, and then to hear my thoughts beneath the surface chatter. I begin to know what I’m feeling instead of being led through a dozen emotions in quick succession by songs on the radio until I lose track of where I am. The longer I listen to silence, the more I hear the songs moving through my life and feel the rhythm that my feet want to dance upon the earth.
This morning I walked outside and thought I heard the quiet sounds of a creek trickling where I knew there was no water. Listening closer, I realized it was the breeze cascading over the surface of leaves in the woods.