On Silence

silenceI don’t think we respect silence enough.

We don’t know what it’s like. We can’t tolerate awkward silences. We can’t quietly do anything. We can’t sit still. I don’t think it’s a medical condition, but rather a social one.

Look around. Go somewhere public, a bus, a publ
ic studying place, or just the sidewalk, and you’ll see people, plugged into their headphones, listening to music. We can’t be quiet. It’s awkward. We’ve created little verbal nuances to fill in silent gaps like the “awkward turtle.” We can’t be together, but be quiet.

I think there’s something beautiful about silence – real silence. The kind of silence that happens when there is a power outage, and the subtle buzz that we’re all accustomed to fades away and we’re left with a new, true silence. I’ve been to places where there is real silence, and the only thing you can hear is the intermittent bark of a dog.

A few friends graciously came with me to visit the home of my Great Grandparents, Rosciolo dei Marsi, in the Apennine Mountains in central Italy. We got on the train that was unburdened by passengers, like trains that go to hot destinations like Florence or Venice, and found ourselves, about an hour later, in Avezzano. From there we took a bus to small Rosciolo and we were left there.

I have never experienced quiet like that in my life. We stood, facing the mountains, and heard nothing. For a few minutes it scared me. I waited for something to break the silence like glass, but nothing did. The only thing that came close was the quiet bark of a sheepdog, miles away.

There are people who live in silence like that. The people of Rosciolo, who couldn’t have numbered more than 100, lived that every day. They woke up to quiet and walked about in quiet, and they gave dirty looks to those who could possibly come and disturb that quiet. It was a place I would love to live in.

However, most of us can’t even begin to fathom that kind of quiet. We can’t imagine what it would be like to be unplugged from our music, or to have to take down our barriers of noise. For some odd reason we are afraid of silence.


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