Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Ramble - Silence

This week's word comes to us through the Old English swige and Old French silence, thence from the Latin silentium and silere meaning "to be still and (or) tranquil". I could happily have traced the word's origins all the way back to the beginning times, but found myself pausing at silere, still curious about the word's roots farther back, but engaged by its easy kinship with rest and repose.

As a species, we are nourished by notions of stillness and tranquility. Our songs, stories and tales are eloquent expressions of the human tribe's wanderings in their entirety, but other things too when we look at individual words and the spaces between the words. Both words and spaces are little works of art or theater, tiny plays or compositions descriptive of a moment or feeling, a physical sensation or an encounter, dialogues with other beings or with existence itself.  Spaces don't separate words - they join the words like lacquered spacers connecting the beads on a silken cord.

Silence and mythology are closely interwoven for the word mythology has its roots in the Greek mythos, meaning to speak or to relate something - and not just in the written or spoken sense. The etymological roots of the word mythology are shared with other words connoting silence, wordlessness and the reluctance or inability to speak. In other words, what we are not hearing or saying is as important as what we are hearing or saying. Silences are as meaningful and as expressive as conversations, and often more so, the spaces between as vibrant and eloquent as the bookending words themselves can ever be.  There is a profound causal relationship between what we communicate in words and what we do not (or cannot) communicate in words.  Our silences are complete within themselves, liminal and transforming.

There is silence between one gust of wind and the one that follows it, in the incandescent intervals at sunset when the falling light illuminates melt pools in the park, turning water and reflected trees to gold as one stands nearby, breathless and staring.  There are the sunless winter days I often write about here when one can hear snow falling among the trees or coming to rest on the old Buddha out on the deck.  All silences are interstitial - the spaces between one bead on a mala and its neighbor, between two words in a narrative, between the opening chime of the meditation bell and the one that closes our fumbling meditation.

Sometimes, we need to be able to hear ourselves think—or better still, not think—just show up and BE right here/ there. In small intentional silences, we dwell (however briefly) in mindfulness, connection and infinite possibility. It's all good, and one of these days, I am going to put those words on a t-shirt.

No comments: