Sunday, April 10, 2016

The taste and politics of silence

You go on a date and neither of you can think of much to say.  Silence is a marker of failure.  All that quiet means to both of you that the date is not going well.

You are at a funeral or a family dinner.  Inadvertently, a loud burp escapes from the throat of Uncle Harry.  There is immediate silence from all present.  That silence is heavy with disapproval and embarrassment, not approval or acceptance.

At a different funeral, the leader of the graveside service asks for "a moment of silence" to honor the deceased veteran.  That silence is full of respect and gratitud.

You attend a meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers.  You go in and have a seat.  Once in a while, someone in the meeting stands and speaks but for most of the hour there is silence.  This silence is clearly expected, nourished and desired by those attending.

Silence can have different effects and can mean different things.  Have some each day, paying attention to the way the silence is produced, what you can hear in it, through it, beneath or behind it.  Some animals are good models of living alertly and with awareness but in silence.

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