Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Sound of Silence

While meditating this week, my thoughts seem to be pacing a large ring around the concept of “Silence”. Well, duh. I know. Isn't the common conception of meditation “Close your eyes and think of nothing”? Possibly, but “nothing” isn't the same as “silence.” In fact, “quiet” isn't “silence” even in a place that is perfectly still. I've had a house guest on and off these past couple of weeks. I need to work from home during the day, and she currently has no employment. She would sit in the living room and create – beads, jewelry, medicine pouch – while I attended to my Insurance accounts... and not a word was spoken. My home was not only quiet, but it was the most contented silence I've experienced in a long time.

Yet, it was a different kind of Silence my mind was fuddling with, rubbing it like a worry bead or coming back to it, over and over, like a Mala. Who knew there were categories of Silence? Ah, but I think there are.

We've all heard the “Silence is Golden” proverb. The notion is so old, there is even a form of it written in ancient Egypt. I guess that's spelled: owl, squiggly line, squiggly line, gold lump, finger to lips. Or maybe they found this on the temple wall:

Poet Thomas Carlyle saw Silence as a positive, a place deep within where ideas manifest and come together, and are brought forth whole – somewhat like Athena springing full borne from the head of Zeus. We all know that it is often wise to keep one's own counsel. My hero, Abe Lincoln, said “ Better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt.” (Atta boy, Abe!)

In the Craft, and other magical traditions, you hear of the four rules: “To Know, To Dare, To Will and To Keep Silent.” In this instance, the “Silent” aspect is a necessity. To achieve Spellcraft, one needs knowledge, courage, strength of conviction, and the ability to let the “Work” stand on it's own. Talking, explaining, bragging, expounding on what you just did is a sure way to suck the life out of the Spell and hone in on yourself. In this instance, Silence is a good thing.

In my own life, however, I have more often encountered – and utilized – Silence in a different way. When I was young, and dealing with a clinically depressed mother, I would often be subjected to a sudden rave. This was typically focused on how I was lazy, fat, and wanted to be treated like “Rockefeller's daughter,” how my siblings didn't help either, and how she's always worked her fingers to the bone from the time she was 4-years-old. (Indeed, Mom did work hard – by choice. She never let anyone help.) When the rant was over, I would get “the silent treatment.” To her, it was a punishment. To me it was a blessed relief!

When I was married, I often hit a wall of silence from the hubby. When there was a problem, he would not communicate. When there was something that disturbed him, he would treat me with disdain and silence. When I came right out and demanded we discuss our problems, he would stare then walk away. (We haven't been married for years, are now good friends, and he has learned to speak out...or else I'll bitch slap him into next week...

 Love you, Gary, but you know I would!)

When I taught creative writing, and the children misbehaved, I would come to a complete halt, and stare in silence. (I can imitate my Irish Great Grandmother's stare. She had a bit of a thyroid problem, so her eyes were a tad bugling. When she did an intense stare she put the fear of God in her family, according to Mom. In America, her picture hung on the pallor wall. My mother would be told “Behave – your grandmother can see you”...and there she was, with bulging eyes. Yikes!)

Not Granny, but you get the idea.

To me, silence was a teaching method. It was/is also an interrogation technique. From police shows like “Bones” we've learned that the guilty are uncomfortable with silence. Sit quietly once they're stopped speaking, and they will start again, to fill the void.

Punishment, technique, method...what I never realized is the truth. As Charles De Gaulle once said: “Silence is the ultimate weapon of power.”

Yes – Silence is a weapon. Lately I have experienced it again in my attempts to try and live a more positive life. Don't get me wrong; some of my gestures have really borne fruit and repaired emotional bridges. However, some have been met with crickets and tumbleweeds. That confused me – which started the meditative walk around the subject. Silence IS power, as the ancient mystics knew. It can also be manipulative, crushing, and a means of control. I knew that when I was teaching, but it didn't even cross my mind that my silent stare had the power of a cocked gun in getting my student's quiet attention.

I read in someone's blog that Silence is a weapon of COWARDS. I can see that. Provided you aren't in a dispute with someone completely nuts (where any verbal exchange could land a brick through your window), silence is a great way not to deal with issues. It's camouflage in a war of words. It allows you to retreat instead of standing your ground or – perhaps – finally confronting a Truth.

I think we all need to be more aware of our Silence and how/where it is utilized. There is a nasty repercussion to it's use as a weapon, and that would be the emotional reaction on the part of the “subject” or “victim” (if the emotional impact on the person is intentional). Vittorio Alferi said it best: “Deep vengeance is the daughter of deep silence.”

Be wise with your words, folks, for they are the sound of power. Be wiser with your Silence – it can be the thunder of the coming storm.

Next week – something grand. The creation of a medicine pouch in pictures. See you then!

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