“Listen to silence. It has so much to say.” ~Rumi
“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
I watched a wonderful movie recently called In Pursuit of Silence. The film has been called “a meditative exploration of our relationship with silence, sound and the impact of noise on our lives”. It opens with 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence, with the image of a lone tree in a cornfield and the barely perceptible sound of a gentle breeze moving through the cornstalks. That’s in honor of John Cage and his conceptual orchestral piece from the 1950’s, in which conductor and musicians are to maintain 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence.
Cage was exploring the idea that all sounds are music, and he believed that we need to learn new ways of listening. In speaking about the premiere of the piece, Cage said, “There’s no such thing as silence. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.” [one can only imagine!]
So, the film got me thinking. It seems to me that what is needed in the world today is for more people to practice listening in the kind of silence that allows for meaningful connections to be made (connection to self, to others, and to Divine Wisdom) so that understanding may arise. There’s a great scene in the film that shows footage of some recent news talk shows where several political commentators are talking boisterously over one another so vehemently that you can’t possibly understand what anyone is saying. We need to learn new ways of listening, and of being with silence.
So, what can we hear in the silence? I feel connected to the mysteries of the cosmos when I am immersed in the silence of nature, for starters. Like gazing at the vast night sky on a starry night by a mountain lake. Or experiencing the stillness in the midst a gentle snow fall. Standing in a sea of tiny white flakes as they fall softly on the trees or on the ground, one is wrapped in a blanket of silence that feels like eternity.
What else can we hear in the spaciousness of silence? When we retreat from the outer noise and enter into a sacred silence, we invite an inner listening to the still small voice and we may hear our heart speak its truth, its joy, its sorrow, its needs and desires, and the deep wisdom within. We connect with some authentic truth at the core of ourselves, and from this place we connect more authentically with others. Or, in silently gazing into another’s eyes, we may hear beyond what words could ever express and connect heart to heart.
If we are silent and we listen very closely, we may hear the poetry in our soul. I love fridge word magnets. They coax my inner poet to come out of hiding and play. I’m always surprised and delighted by what will emerge onto my fridge. My favorite random word creation is:
“Celebrate poetry, said the ocean. Listen to the vast night sky!”
Yes, indeed, the ocean has much to say, if we listen carefully. May we all learn new ways of listening and appreciate the gifts of the sounds of silence.
Photo by Joanne Lefferts: Rowing the Lower Ausable Lake