Thursday, May 26, 2011

Enjoy the Silence

“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.”
William S. Burroughs

This is going to be a hazardous post for me.  I could easily be
misunderstood, painting a false portrait of myself as someone snobby
and conceited.  Granted, I’ve been called those things a time or two
but I really don’t see myself as such.  Or at least I hope I’m not.
Anyway, here goes.

When I’m in a social setting with many people, I’m very quiet.  If I
have something to say that I believe to be of merit, I’ll say it.  If
I don’t, I’ll remain silent.  This does not seem the case with
everyone, hence why I may come off as “strange.”  Many others feel the
need to fill any and all voids in verbalization with questions or
commentary on or about anything.  And I do mean anything.  I guess
it’s true that “nature abhors a vacuum.”  In these kinds of
situations, I begin to wonder, “Is this really what is on people’s
minds?”  Really?  What they found on sale at the grocery store or new
furniture they want for their house?  I understand that oftentimes
people are looking for the most banal and therefore the safest
discussion topics just to avoid offense, but just as often I get the
sense that the prattle is genuine.  It all seems so pointless to me,
like talking to just hear yourself talk.

Try this experiment.  When out in public, say the Starbucks or another
such vital institution, practice a bit of deep listening and pay
attention to what people are saying.  Especially those who are on
cellphones.  Unless the building is on fire, being held up, or being
overrun by giant ants, there usually isn’t a dire need for them to be
making the call.  Yes, I’m well aware that there are a great many
other circumstances apart from the ones I’ve mentioned where one would
need to make a call.  I’m just being smart alecky.  So often though,
the cell users aren’t calling anyone for those reasons or at least
that’s not how it sounds.  Trust me, you won’t have to strain your
ears to listen, either.  They’ll typically speak loud enough for
everyone to know what their discussion is covering.  Exceptionally
awkward when you’re listening to a couple break up via cell call while
you’re just waiting in line for your latte.  Sadly, that’s the one of
the more exciting scenarios I can envision.  Most of the time you’ll
be hearing about what color someone wants his or her bedroom painted.
Every bit as exciting as watching paint dry.

So next time there is one amongst you who is keeping silent, let them
be.  They probably have their reasons for it and it doesn’t mean that
they are anti-social or deranged.  They may simply have a disdain for
vacuous discussion for no reason.  They may be waiting to have
something valuable to say and will no doubt wow you when they say it.
I’m not arguing that every conversation need be a meditation on matters of
God and man and I’m not talking about casual, daily conversation
between two friends, spouses, bf/gf, or any of the numerous
permutations thereof.  I suppose what concerns me is the fact that if these things mentioned are indeed what preoccupies most Americans, what is of primary concern to us...we may be in trouble.

“All I ever wanted, all I ever needed
Is here in my arms.
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm.”
        --Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence

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