What is Silence? On Different Perspectives

Day 2 on “Silence & Sound” Chapter

of Remembering “Who Am I” Series


[Listen to audio here]

[Read the transcript below]

Hello there! Welcome to the second day of the Silence and Sound chapter. This time I decided to record it, video, audio and speech notes as well. Let’s do this! Today we will be exploring different perspectives of silence. For next week, we will be exploring different perspectives, types, science, different explanations and sharing about sound. This week we will be focusing on silence.

Before that I would love to ask you a simple question- what is silence to you? When you think of silence, what came up?

I have library. I have “sshhh”. I have the hand sign of silence symbol. I have this image of “dark forest”. What else do I have? Ah, monastery, temples, all kinds of silence I have experienced. But actually, it is much more than that. So just to share with you and to explore on different perspectives on silence. Let’s look at this.

What are the myths that we have right now? The first myth, silence brings the meaning of being free from noise, not talking and the absence of sound. But, what really is silence? I would love to introduce you – what is silence?

A bit of introduction about the origin of silence. The word Silence came from a Latin root, it is called “desinere”, if I pronounce it correctly, it means stop. In Indo-European perspectives, it brings the concept of “sei” means to leave. The antecedents of Gothic verb of “anasilan”, it means the wind is dying down. All these etymologies suggest that silence brings with the idea of an interrupted action. Stop. Pause. Slow. The pursuit of silence begins with the surrender of chasing to abandon the effort of imposing our idea and will in the society, in the world. It means stop. Different perspectives I would love to share about silence, I love this description.

Previously, I thought silence is where I am away from crowd; I am in my own space or in nature, when I am alone, and just no sound. Because I am very sensitive to sound as well, so I really really really enjoy silence. But, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk mentioned that silence is not just the absence of sound, but it is the absence of noise and the absence of self. He described in the book, for him, silence is when we are not disturb inside. No matter where we are, in the crowd or alone. Whether with noises, sound or not, we are not disturbed by the external stimuli as well as the mental noise that we all have. That is very interesting so that made me reflect, “oh yeah, actually, I’ve been avoiding crowd. I’ve been avoiding noisy places because the noises I allowed them to affect me, to influence my silence within. What if I start to accept the noises? But I can still make a choice, to stay or keep myself in distance with the noise and sound.

From the book called “The Pursuit of Silence”, this writer George Prochnik mentioned that the sound imposes a narrative on us, say with music sound, but when silence happened, it is when we are the author, we write our own story. So, one painter experiences silence and he shared that- “being awake inside a dream, where I could direct the dream.” Isn’t it interesting to look at different perspectives? Where Thich Nhat Hanh explained about silence is not being disturb; we have the painter described silence in this way where we can direct our own dream, we can write our own story.

There is one more story, it is from the book as well, “The Pursuit of Silence”, where it is about a prominent leader in 20th century called Ajahn Chah, he went to a monastery to practice meditation and one day there was a young monk came over to the monastery to practice as well. At that time, the town was celebrating, there was a festival in the town and they celebrate so it created different kinds of sound and noises. The monks have to begin their meditation at 3:30am so right at that time the festival is still on, so there are noises and sound. The young monk went over to Ajahn Chah said that, “the noises are disturbing my practice.” Ajahn Chah said “it is not the noise that is disturbing you, it is you are bothering the noise.”

What are messages from this? It means that silence is not just what we think it is. It is when our reaction to things are quiet, when we just accept things as they are instead of protesting the way it is. It is what it is, right? That is a story about how we can also look at silence. Not just about the external, but it is the external plus the internal. 

Now there is one more perspective that I would love to share. It is from my favourite- Matias de Stefano on Yosoy.red. He mentioned that silence is not generating any sound at all, but, it is where all sounds are in harmony with each other and there are only capable of creating silence. When the union of all sound are in harmony. Silence. Isn’t that beautiful to look at? That’s one philosophy way, a perspective to look at silence, because it is just like the orchestra. When the sound are played, but sound can only be understandable when there is silence exist in between. Silence is actually much more than sound. Silence assimilates everything that has vibration in it, it is all sound in harmony. When you become that vibration, you can sing a new song. Basically, it means that you are everything and you can create whatever that you want. Alright, so here are the different perspectives of silence. I wish that these open up your mind and more understanding about silence.

For me, it’s definitely more about just being alone in my space or in nature without anyone, but it’s much more than that. Because I realised that when I am aware of my reaction to any external stimuli or internal thoughts, and I just acknowledge and accept it, that’s the magic of silence. That’s the art of Silence, no matter where am I. This is where we take the responsibility within that whatever happen externally or internally, you take the power.

Say you don’t give your power way to people, like saying “this construction it’s so noisy and it’s affecting me.” When you take your own power, see what you can do about it. When there’s noise around the construction, and of course with prolong noise does no good to us. But, what we can do when we own our power, realise that I take charge of my own life, so I can choose to leave the space.

This is it for today, and I look forward to share more on the next chapter. Next chapter we will be going into understanding different types of silence, and it’s going to be really interesting. We will go to the science, stories, poems. I look forward to see you.

Now practice silence together. I want to propose this, where we do nothing in this coming 9 minutes, in silence, where I won’t play any music. Let’s just experiment and experience it.

[Practice Silence together at 13:52] 

Love,

Abhya

Published by Abbhya 阿比亚 Pan Vic Qi

One sharing and supporting unity consciousness

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