Monday, July 2, 2012

Concerning Silence

First, a quote.
“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” - Kurt Vonnegut
Lately I’ve been having trouble coming up with things to write about. That isn’t to say I haven’t tried. Time and again I’ve started something only to lose interest, forget about it, or sit on it so long that it loses relevance. As someone who fancies himself a writer, that makes for a rather frustrating few months. At the same time, I don’t want to write just for the sake of filling a page. By that I mean this: we are already a culture saturated by text, drowning in a sea of words and ideas which is constantly swallowing our minds, fighting for control of our already minuscule attention spans.

We are not a culture lacking for people with something to say.

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Growing up, people used to say this: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I think nice is a word that doesn’t mean much of anything at all. It's just...nice. Inoffensive yet uninspiring, as though it were the vanilla of words. Who doesn't like vanilla, after all? But people don't tend to get excited about it either. That's why God invented chocolate chips and hot fudge and bits of candy bars. But nice...what do you add to nice? I think you just have to get rid of it. I think we should replace nice with profound, or new, or impassioned.

Lately I haven’t had anything profound or new or impassioned to say. Lately I’ve been silent.

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Not long ago I heard someone say that of all sounds, the most precious and underappreciated is silence. That made me stop and think, and listen. Unfortunately, all I could hear was the sound of the people around him oohing and aahing. It kind of annoyed me, if you really want to know. They should have just stopped and tried to experience it, to appreciate it.

Perhaps my favorite place to go in my new home is a state park that almost no one ever visits, a place I don't visit nearly often enough. I love to be able to drive out there by myself, wander through the woods and scale those giant mountains of sand, only to end up face to face with That Giant Lake. When the only sounds you hear are the wind around you and the waves before you, you know you have found something special.

There is a spot there, just before you reach That Giant Lake, where the trail through the dunes finally lends you a view of the water. Sand rises up on either side of the path, creating a perfect little nook between them. If you come at the right time, the sun will fall perfectly between those two dunes, all kinds of brilliant and colorful. It's quite beautiful really, far more eloquent than I could ever hope to be.

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During these times when I struggle to find anything profound or new or impassioned to say, I often fail to recognize the importance of silence, the value and beauty in observing and experiencing the world without having to say something about it. The world is a beautiful place, and these times of silence are an invitation to enjoy it free from cost and a cluttered mind. 

It isn't a matter of having nothing to say; rather, it's about recognizing that life is bigger and more incredible than I could ever put into words, with more twists than any novelist could dream up, containing more beauty than any poet can fully express. Sometimes, when faced with a world far grander than you could ever imagine, all you can do is stand in silence and simply enjoy it.

And so on...

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