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Sounds and Silence

Editor’s Message: While you are reading this blog, do you have your phone (or phones) on, your emails flashing on the side, plus screens for facebook/twitter sitting on the other side, … If we are so connected today, why do we feel so disconnected? The virtue of silence awaits your exploration.

John Cage wrote a famous piece of music that consists of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. The idea was twofold (at least): to become aware of silence—and then to also begin noticing all the sounds coming from the audience itself. There is no perfect silence, that I know of. I would love to hear it though, if there was.

Similarly, a jazz composer (I can’t recall who) invited his listeners to go about their day being aware of the symphony of noise all around them—and of the noises they themselves contributed to that symphony.

What noises did you contribute to the earthly symphony today? Words of kindness? Or keeping silence when tempted to criticize? (I think that’s just as good.) Did you actually sing? Did you laugh? Did your brakes screech? Did you snore? Or did you bury yourself in someone else’s noise—T.V. that is! (I don’t have any opinions at all.)

What noises did you listen to today? Water flowing through pipes? A bird’s scrabbling in the dirt? The sound of your loved one breathing softly in his or her sleep? Was it music to your ears?

Particularly in a noisy world, we need to take time to listen—to ourselves, to our life, to its echoes ... do memories have sounds? Sure they do. And it’s easier to hear the future of where our life might be calling us, if we listen … listen … to where we are now.

The noises we fill our lives with can soothe, or stress us. They can lift our mood or dampen it. John Coltrane said that music can actually change our thought patterns—and it’s true. But not just music—silence, and all of the softer sounds that emerge from it, can hold our attention in a gentler way than this noisy world filled with machines, media and madness.

Take time throughout your day to listen—for the space between the sounds. Breathe into that space. Who knows what will be waiting there?


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