Speaking of Silence

by Christian Thomas Golden

Sometimes I think I’ve figured something out. Then I figure it out.

Think about this: Sometimes I think I’ve figured something out. Then I figure it out. It is a cycle without end. I think I’ve figured something out. Then I figure it out. I think I’ve figured it out. Then I figure it out, and so on.

A time to keep silent and a time to speak

A time to keep silent and a time to speak

A time to keep silent and a time to speak

To everything there is a season: a time to keep silent and a time to speak.

What does it mean to keep silent?

What does it mean to speak?

If to keep silent is to refrain from speaking, then we must define what it is to speak before we can define what it is to keep silent.

What does it mean to speak? Must you make noise to speak? I would say speaking is more general than that. Speaking must include all mediums of communication in which the actor is sending information. In other words, if I am making noise, if I am writing something, if I am employing some form of body language, I am sending information – thereby speaking to the receiver(s).

If speaking can be either verbal or non-verbal, what then follows with our definition of keeping silent?

If keeping silent is to refrain from speaking, and speaking can be either verbal or non-verbal, what does “keeping silent” look like?

If I speak by waving my hand, what would keeping silent have looked like? Refraining from waving my hand? Not necessarily. Perhaps I purposely refrained from waving my hand in order to communicate something. So, was I really being silent? Was I really refraining from speaking?

So, then, what do we do? How do we find silence? Is it possible for a man to keep silent in the presence of another man? If so, how? Can I even guarantee my own silence by avoiding other men at all costs? Doesn’t that communicate something as well?

I think we are left with either an easy task, or a very difficult one. On the one hand, we may have to redefine silence as simply meaning lack of auditory noise. On the other hand, we may have to retain our definition of silence (to refrain from speaking), and search long and hard for any method of execution.

Is it possible to keep silent? Can anyone ever keep silent?

If there is a season to keep silent, it must be possible to keep silent.

Is there ever a moment when we are silent?

Perhaps when we are listening? Yes, I think there’s something there. To listen is to receive. In order to receive, we must have the capacity to receive. If someone wants to hand me a gift, don’t I have to receive it with empty hands? I mean, how can I receive a gift in a hand that is already holding something? If I have no capacity to receive, can I receive? No. If I have the capacity to listen, can I listen? No. In order to listen, we first must be silent, and then we must be receptive to the sender. So, I believe, there is a time when we keep silent. It is the moment when we forsake ourselves for the purpose of receiving. Surely, I cannot listen to an answer to my question if all I do is ask the question over and over while the responder is answering the question. In that scenario, I do not have the capacity to receive what the sender is speaking.

Clearly, it is necessary that those times do exist when we forsake our urge to speak, for the purpose of receiving what others are speaking. Otherwise, we could never listen.

This, then, also exemplifies the aspect of human nature whereby man cannot occupy two physical locations in the same moment. Man is limited to the linear unidirectional path.

So, again I ask: what does it mean to keep silent?

To keep silent is to invest one’s self entirely in the speech of another. To keep silent is to assume the role of the receiver, NOT the giver (though you are, in fact, giving the speaker a portion of your time [life]).

It is better to give than receive. How much better is the ability to give by receiving?

There’s a time to speak and a time to keep silent. Otherwise, you’d have either nobody saying anything to anybody, or everybody saying something to everybody (thus rendering what’s been said void, since there would be no listener).

I think I’ve figured this out!

Then again…

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