“In silence we are at one with the world. We don’t stand out, we aren’t separate from nature, we are no different from one another.” Andy Puddicombe, Headspace
In early March I stood at the Lake Huron shoreline, surveying mounded up, frozen and dirty waves. There was no sound. Nothing. It was as if the lake was holding its breath. Suspended. Between life and death.
Surely under all that crystalized ice there was movement? Sound? A soft moaning perhaps? I’m alive, she might whisper. I still support life.
Canada geese on the nearby frozen river honked, letting me know they were alive.
Why is silence so shocking? Often avoided at all costs? Is it because we’re born into noise? Equipped with two good ears that hear, our own racket greets us the moment we emerge, squawling from the womb. A voice, distorted, but we don’t realize until we hear it later in life, played back on some recording device. “That’s not what I sound like!” we protest.
So, sound number one (aside, perhaps, from womb sounds, like Mom’s heartbeat, vibrational voice, and whatever else might penetrate our cozy nest) is our own bloodcurdling response to birth. James Hollis, Phd, author of Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, describes the commencement of our lifelong trauma this way: “The birth of life is also the birth of neurosis, so to speak, because from that moment on we are in service to twin agendas – the biological and spiritual drive to develop, to move forward, and the archaic yearning to fall back into the cosmic sleep of instinctual subsistence.” Oh man! That’s why life can be so tough!
But? Mom was there to ease my passage: cuddling, cooing, changing, feeding. Singing:
“This little piggy went to market . . .”
And? If you were a Boomer, like me? When you got home there was a black and white TV in the corner of the living room, blasting out a commercial jingle like this one:
“Double your pleasure, double your fun
with double good, double good Doublemint gum”
Blaring from the radio at the babysitter’s:
“Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of 51
now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do”
A Hank Snow album crackling from the hi-fi on Saturday evening, as Mom and Dad got dressed up to go dancing:
“Lazy bones, sleepin’ in the sun,
how you think you’re gonna get your day’s work done?”
So much sound, all around. Mom: vacuuming, polishing the floor, running the mixmaster, talking. Screen door opening, closing: big brother home from school, Dad home from work. “Dinnertime!”
The telephone! Do you miss the telephone ringing? (I sometimes miss the simplicity: a device that does one thing, transmits voice.) It was a black one, high on the kitchen wall above a tall stool with chrome fold-out legs that I loved to fold out, fold in, fold out, fold in. “Just don’t pinch your fingers!”
And, a special treat for me, just after I turned nine and was beginning to tire of my dollies: a real live baby in the form of my sister, crying from time to time. “There, there.”
A family. A life. Chock full of nuts! And sound.
If you desire and are lucky: your own family. Babies: crying, crawling, toddling, walking, running. Your own house! Full of sound. Inside, outside. Dog(s) perhaps: barking, nails clicking on the hardwood, collar clanging on the water dish.
It’s remarkable, yes? To experience years upon years of sound and then find yourself plunked on a beach near Grand Bend on a still day where there is . . . silence.
Like Simon & Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence: “Hello darkness, my old friend.”
Is it darkness that keeps us running from silence? Fear? Does silence mean the end of something? An era? A life? Our life?
In silence must we face something? Mortality? Eternity? The constant voice in the head: “I’m enough. No, I’m not. I matter. No, I don’t.”
You do know you’re divine, right? Christic – meaning “of Christ” – even? Perfect, as is.
You sure were to the Mom and Dad who greeted your squawling lungs all those years ago. Those two? They wanted nothing but the best for you.
It’s ok. Nothing to fear here. You arrived on the wings of love.
The lake will thaw. She’ll recover her rhythmic beat. Lap, lap. Woosh, woosh. A heartbeat.
The lake-death-silence is temporary.
Like your life.