The enigmas of silence

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Robert Maurer

The enigmas of silence

Last update: February 28, 2015

Hardly anyone can tolerate silence for long. The absence of sound is a kind of fasting, an uncomfortable deprivation, for which there is little place in the contemporary world. It has also caused more and more people to get used to having the TV or radio on, just to make sure there is always background noise to cover any silence.

Sometimes the silence it is experienced as a monstrous loneliness, as an unbearable abandonment. Others find in silence only an uneasiness, more or less annoying. Some see him more as an ally, as long as he doesn't persist for more than a couple of hours. We need to hear at least the traffic noise in the city or the hum of something alive in the countryside. There must be some sound. Silence evokes death.

The silences

It is romantic the silence between two lovers who look into each other's eyes and do not need words to understand each other, as we have heard repeated a thousand times. The silence of those who are constantly surrounded by noises and finally find an oasis of peace in the midst of that acoustic jungle is relaxing. The silence of the exultation that follows a moment of happiness.

But there are other less pleasant silences. Those who remind us that we are alone or that we miss someone in particular. The silence of an answer that does not arrive. The words that we will never hear from those who left us. I "I love you", "I understand you", "I need you", "I respect you", "I admire you" that we do not have or have never told us. The silence of those who have closed in on themselves, preventing us from entering. The absence of words that accompany a hard look or a cruel gesture.

The silences imposed: "Shut up!". The silence filled with waiting before the winner of the lottery is announced. The silent tension of those waiting for a verdict. The silence of the universe with its planets, stars and celestial bodies in the complete absence of sound.

There is something mysterious about this silent world that somehow fascinates us, but which, in some cases, terrifies us.

The power of silence

While in the West saying little can be interpreted as not having much to say, in the East the opposite is true: whoever talks too much is considered disturbing and suspected of quackery. In these cultures, silence has a profound spiritual significance and is associated with the ethical world. Mystical silence invites us to discover the roots of our life.

Eastern silence is an active silence. It indicates encounter, research, introspection, dialogue with our inner voice. Whoever is silent, has the power. Whoever talks too much is irremediably chained to what he says.

In the West, however, the power of silence was expressed in Chaplin's classic films. In the clever mimicry of Marcel Marceau, who said: "You must understand what silence is, what is the weight of silence, what is the power of silence." It is certainly something difficult to understand in an age that plunges us into hyper-communication, while sometimes we really have nothing to say. Often our conversations are nothing more than a continuous repetition of the same abused formulas, the same clichés, the same social, political or commercial chants.

In psychoanalysis, silence acts as a pillar that supports the entire scaffolding. The analyst offers his silence as an invitation to make our voices heard and develop our ability to listen and our speech. The silence of the one who analyzes himself speaks of the resistance or the irruption of what beats inside him to get out.

Even within psychoanalysis, silence emerges as an insuperable means. After all, the unconscious is a speech without words. From those silences caused by the unspeakable, a new language is born that is not so much made up of words that explain, but of intuitions, suggestions, paradoxes, pretexts to tell about oneself ... we want to conclude this complex topic:

The three strangest words

When I say the word Future,
the first syllable already goes into the past.

When I say the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I say the word Nothing,
I create something that does not enter into anything.

-Wislawa Szymborska-


Image courtesy of Victor Nuño - Via Flickr.

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