How We Treat Silence

I am uncomfortable with silence.

With other people and with myself. I tend to treat silence like incomplete sound. Sound that needs my voice, the radio, some music to be made whole.

I have poured out thousands, maybe millions of useless chatter words that serve no purpose other than to muffle the silence. And somewhere, far back and down deep in my mind, a little voice always says, “What happens if you risk being silent instead?”

But rarely do I gather up the curiosity – though really, it’s probably more the courage – to find out.

Sometime ago, I heard this Sai Baba quote that I immediately loved and immediately forgot, as I can do with things that threaten my way of being:

“Before you speak, ask yourself…does it improve upon the silence?”

Here I was treating silence as the absence of sound, when it’s the presence – if I don’t muffle it – of something whole, mysterious, even sacred as it is.

I’m working now to risk the presence of silence. I’m uncomfortable with it still. But I’m making more space for it, finding some respect for it. Like silence itself is worth hearing.

To end, a quote from author Chaim Potok. A quote I immediately loved and am trying not to immediately forget:

“You can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”

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