The Sound of Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turn my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sound of silence.

~~~

I’ve recently discovered that I don’t do well in silence.

The emptiness, the nothing, just sitting there, left with your own mind. It causes mine to wonder bad things, like if I’ve done something wrong in the situation, if that’s why there isn’t any talking. Did I mess up somewhere? Is the person I’m with mad at me? My mind races faster and faster to try to figure out why it’s so darn quiet, why no one is saying anything. This in turn causes me to find things to talk about, subjects that don’t really matter, just to fill the airwaves and make me less uncomfortable. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do in this situation; it’s just what comes naturally. It puts my mind temporarily at ease, but then my brain returns to panicking when the conversation dies down again and I am left in the silence.

When I was younger, my parents would go through bouts of not talking to each other for a few days when they were angry. I don’t think this approach of communication (or lack thereof) is right; I think it’s more important to talk about why you’re upset with the other person instead of not saying anything at all and trying to make them “read your mind” (to use their words, not mine) and figure it out. This is one of the reasons I think silence scares me so much, especially in relationships. If nothing is being said between the couple, they must be angry, and it must be a bad thing… right?

Also, when I get really angry and moody, I get really quiet. I won’t say anything and instead be trapped inside my brooding mind. Sometimes when I’m stuck in situations where there’s only silence, I start to think that the other person is upset with me, and then I start coming up with things to be angry at them for. I internally blame them for things that don’t really even make sense.

My materials engineering class started talking about philosophical things in class on Thursday, and one of the things to come up was, in fact, silence. My professor said that silence makes most people feel very uncomfortable, mostly because as humans, we want to be heard. So even if we don’t have anything important to say, just talking about something makes us feel like we’re contributing, like we’re being heard by someone else.

I find silence cold, haunting, uneasy, full of tension. I know that I make it this way, since it can just as easily be beautiful, peaceful, satisfying. While it naturally makes me itch and squirm, it could just as easily cause me to relax and put my mind at ease.

Davis brought up a good point yesterday: if you’re in a relationship for a long time, you’re going to hit a point when you just  run out of things to talk about. Sure, you can bring up the same subjects over and over again, repeat yourself, just fill space with meaningless words, but even then you’ll tire of it and be left with nothing to say. I need to be okay with that. Right now I’m most definitely not. Right now the silence still makes me uncomfortable. But I want to find a way to make it wonderful instead of scary.

Yesterday I learned something else, too. There was a girl in high school that I became friends with. At the beginning she was standoffish, and not a lot of people liked her because she was so opinionated and loud. But I found my way in and became really close to her. We’d talk a lot and were really good friends. But then I noticed that she was becoming quieter and quieter, and I started to think that I was doing something wrong, that there was a reason that she wasn’t talking to me. I didn’t like her silence, so I’d try to talk to her and she’d only give me one-word answers. I became frustrated and hurt – why wasn’t she saying anything to me, yet talking to other people? This, along with many other things, led to the deterioration of our friendship.

I think I might understand this aspect of her now, though: she felt comfortable enough around me not to have to say anything. She was satisfied with just being with me. Instead of it being an insult, it was a compliment, and it really showed how close we had become. I didn’t see it this way at all, and it’s still kind of hard for me to understand this completely. I want to become okay with the silence, to not feel pressured into saying anything when nothing is really necessary.

I love the lines in the song above that say, “People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening…” I remember thinking about something similar when I was little: that it’s so easy to hear without listening, or to look without seeing. I want to work on this: to always listen, to always speak.

I am by no means a quiet person. I will talk with anyone and everyone, and I think this is one of the reasons I am good at meeting people and making new friends. But when it comes to people that are important to me, I want to make sure I really listen and truly speak. Words aren’t always necessary; sometimes the silence says more.

My goal: to become okay with silence. It will be tedious and very difficult, and it will take a long time, but I know that it’s something that needs to be done. I don’t need to become a master of it now; I just need to work on it little by little. I also know that I have the support of my friends in doing this, that they will be helping me and praying for me as I go.

Song by Simon and Garfunkel. If you haven’t heard it, you should seriously go listen to it right now. It’s amazing.

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