Is Silence Golden?
This past weekend I took part in a Scouting Ordeal that had me,and the many dozens of others who were with me, remain in silence — no talking — for 24 hours. Here’s how it was golden:
– I didn’t have to hear the guy in front of me in line complain anymore — about what he forgot, about how he had to wait to attend, about how he had to carry his stuff around with him;
– I didn’t get to hear myself talk about banal topics like the weather, my boots or the weather;
– I missed overhearing any further riveting stories about Adult Swim, Internet memes or back-to-school hi-jinks from the Scouts nearby.
A definite uptake was to realize how much air we fill
with negative, annoying or needless speech.
When we needed to — though it was probably against Da Rules — we got by with a little ad hoc sign language or pantomime:
– like when the guy behind me in line doused up with DEET and then held the bottle out to me, in silent offer;.
– or when we were walking on a dark trail and I noticed a large drop-off ahead and illuminated it with my light so that the folks behind me would be sure to see it, too.
But there were also moments when speech was missed:
– like when I wanted to tell the guy “thank you” for offering the DEET;
– or to say, “bless you!” to the nearby kid who sneezed;
– or to apologize to the guy behind me when my too-big backpack hit him as I turned around.
It was fascinating to experience 24 hours of silence. A definite uptake was to realize how much air we fill with negative, annoying or needless speech. But when it’s sweet — infrequent punctuations amidst the general noise of our normal conversations — the positive, encouraging and polite things that we use words to impart to one another can also be golden — and arguably make the other kinds of speech tolerable, if not worthwhile.
And that’s all I have to say about that …