Sounds of Silence

My ideal world wouldn’t have Christmases and New Years. They’re too noisy, too full of stress and the need to be something other people expect of us. The season always feels to me like twelve days of living in a mask. Once I’m ‘safe’ again, and it’s the second or third day of January, and the disappointments and demands have passed,  I can potentially withdraw back into a private silence, as well as participate in the usual run of noisemaking.

The ancient Greeks, I read, had two words (probably more) for silence. There was siôpaô, which refers to the absence of human speech, and which, as said, I find restorative. Sometimes our speech is full of meaning, and sometimes we talk for hours producing none. Absence of speech feels particularly healing after the endless seasonal good wishes. (And what exactly is such a wish? A low-voltage prayer? I’ve never actually known).

The second word was sigaô, which means an absence of the sounds of the world: traffic and horns, electronic things that beep, as if they had something important to communicate, or the hum and buzz of machinery of all kinds. Perhaps there is a third word for cosmic Silence, but the first two alone are enough to produce a presentiment of that.

I know people who cannot stand silences. They read or work to the sound of music, and feel no gathering is complete without music or a TV in the background. I try to avoid such persons, and I never play background music in my home. If I listen to music, I listen to music.

Silence, deep silence, is not just the absence of sounds to me, but absence of all distractions. It means my mind can shut up. Un-knowing comes then, and we can grasp what we normally miss.

I enjoy it when the world shuts up. This isn’t because I think it’s ‘bad,’ or that people are sinful in some way, but because then its elements can align themselves with their essential being, and desperation, hurt and fear are gone for a time.

Which means That which is, while being not, can be heard.

“We do not know what God is. God Himself does not know what He is because He is not anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being.” (Johannes Scotus Eriugena).


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