On Silence

Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?
Lawrence Durrell

Much of my day is spent alone, surrounded by a silent world. I’m no longer a member of the academic world, the world of almost constant conversation. I rarely attend a lecture, watch television, or speak with colleagues.

Is this world of quietude affecting me? Sometimes I catch myself using a word or unusual phrase and recognize it was something I often heard X use. Listening to these words will begin to diminish now. Will I come up with those of my own? Will I eventually forget how to speak at all, let alone engage in a decent conversation?

No, I don’t think that will happen. Once you begin to speak and then to speak in genuine sentences that become more complex, you’ll never forget. Talking is like riding a bicycle; once you learn, you’re set for life.

Over time, what you say becomes more distinctive and more your own way of speaking. But what happens when so much of your world grows silent? The poet writes:

In the silence
The silence of my days
Deepens, the wind is still:
Unbroken cloud or haze
Wraps up the world until
The minds which once seemed full
Seem empty, dark and dull.

I speak, and no one hears:
I listen, no one speaks.
There is no sound of tears,
No laughter. No one seeks
The future in the past
Where it must come at last.

And is the future new?
They say so, who ignore
Adam and Eve show through
Today as heretofore.
The murder done by Cain
Is daily done again.

Celebrate if you will
The triumph of your genes:
The past is working still
—That is all that it means.
In every spoken word,
Always, the past is heard.

Perhaps silence is best,
But if there must be speech,
Then watch it closely, lest
It stretches out of reach.
The future is too far:
The past is all we are.

C. H. Sisson