A man’s silence is wonderful to listen to.
— Thomas Hardy
Stop reading. Look away from the computer screen. Turn off the music you’re listening to. (You may be thinking that it would be hard to follow those second two directions if you followed the first, but we both know you didn’t.) So now, really go ahead and cut off all forms of music, that voice reading these words in your head, and just listen.
Did you do it? Of course not. Ok, seriously now, go ahead and try it. I’ll even give you some extra line breaks to encourage it.
Did you feel it? The silence. It’s quite spectacular isn’t it? As nerdy as this sounds, one of my favorite spots to be on a Saturday morning is the third floor computer lab of the library. It’s only me and this weird guy in there who always makes eye contact with me until one of us looks away. The score is 15 to 21, his favor; I keep track in a word document.
But after I settle down at my computer, the same one I’m writing this from right now, I let the silence envelop my soul. Let it fill every porous crack in my being. I’ll breath it in, exhale it out. I’ll wash my hair with it, clean beneath my toenails with it, wear it on my fingers as I type.
We don’t get enough silence in our lives. Not nearly enough. Whether it’s listening to music, talking to someone, the drone of car engines, the churn of the washer, the television, the voice in our head, the crunch of our food, noise is all around us. But we can get noise whenever we want. How often do we really get silence?
They say you should take the battery out of your phone every other day or so to give it a “soft restart.” Silence does the same thing for our minds. Every day, we should strive to get a little bit of it, clear out all the whirling and buzzing thoughts, the excess, repetitive faucet dripping of life that batters our sanity and slowly erodes at our patience.
Better than a cold glass of water or a warm bowl of soup (unless it’s tomato and you have a grilled cheese sandwich to go along with it), silence will fill you up, refresh you, enrich your body in a way you’ve never experienced before.
If you can’t tell, I highly recommend it.
One game I like to play with girls I take on dates, is to see how long they can sit/walk/stand in silence next to me. It’s a test of sorts that is not difficult to pass, but rarely achieved. After a moment of it, the girl will start to chatter about some nonsense, try to hide its presence behind a gossamer shawl of lip smacking and vocal cord vibrating. But the silence never truly leaves, just sighs as it waits for her to quiet, waits for her to comment about how much she’s talking, waits for me to smile and encourage it onward.
Silence is beautiful if done rightly. Majestic. Often times it’s the most elegant thing you can say, the wittiest thing you can think of. The greatest ideas often spring from the wells of its infinitude.
So the next time you’re in a business meeting or a classroom, or you’re sitting at home or you’re driving down the road, just turn off everything you can. Find the most insulated room available. And listen to the silence.
It is your only friend who actually requests nothing of you.