If we think about it we might realise that travelling through the hectic pace of our contemporary days, in our minds, words are playing all the time, like a permanent radio station, in constant stream. It’s those words, constantly playing, silently, that sometimes don’t let us sleep, block us from accessing some fundamental truth, or make us say the wrong kind of words.
How would it be like then, to feel the silence? the sensation of diving in the silent sea of no words ? And how could we describe the texture of silence? Could silence be softly dense, like a smooth light blanket, that would cover you all ?
In 2008 French band Moriarty attracted the attention of the public because of their version of Depeche Mode’s famous song “Enjoy The Silence”. Moriarty is a musical collective made up of people of todays world, people that come from all corners of the planet. The five artists of French, American, Swiss and Vietnamese origin named their collective group Moriarty in reference to Dean Moriarty, the hero of On the road , a novel written by Jack Kerouac, that went on a hero’s journey of fierce personal quest for meaning and belonging.
Moriarty’s acoustic cover of “Enjoy The Silence” was received with enthusiasm, maybe due to is warm and original melody, its dissonant percussive xylophone solo and the way of the guitar, ending with a dissonant chord. Filled with words and silences, the song does transmits the sensation of moving into silence and enjoying it as a pleasant space of no words no sound.
The space of silence.
The video clip for the original Depeche Mode’s version of “Enjoy the Silence” was done in the nineties by Anton Corbijn, and it referenced the philosophical children’s book, that narrated another silent seeker undergoing an inner journey: “The Little Prince”. In that video clip, Dave Gahan impersonated the character of the little prince, that calmly walked through the landscape of the scottish highlands, the coast of Portugal and the swiss alps, holding a deck chair, while brief flashes of a single rose appeared throughout the scenes. The idea behind Corbijn concept was that the King (Dave Gahan) represented “a man with everything in the world, just looking for a quiet place to sit”;
That king of no kingdom had everything he ever needed: a sea of silence.
What triggers me in this song is how it reminds us of an intemporal truth: “Words are meaningless, And forgettable. All I ever wanted, Is here in my arms, Words are very unnecessary, They can only do harm.”screenshot of video “Enjoy the silence” done by Anton Corbijn
What is silence ?
What is silence after all ? Latin’s origin of the word, comes from silentium , which means “a being silent,” and a variation from silens, the present participle of silere “be quiet or still”.
Looking at music helps us understand what is silence, as music plays skilfully with pauses and rests to distinguish other periods of sound. It is silence that allow dynamics, melodies and rhythms to have greater impact. There is a famous story about John’s Cage, an experimental musician very interested in silence, that one day entered a room in Harvard, scientifically designed to be without sound. But when inside, Cage heard two sounds, one with a low pitch the other with a high. He asked the engineer the reason of those two sounds, to be told that the high sound was his nervous system, the low sound his blood as it circulated.Anechoic chamber
But looking for the silence so strenuously like going into an anechoic chamber, might ironically drive you quite away from reaching silence. it’s a melodic music like the one we listened here: “enjoy the silence” that reminds us that silence has actually a lot to do with a world of sounds.
But “silence” has very others meanings. In spirituality for example, it is often a metaphor for inner stillness. In the various religious traditions, a silent mind is a mind that can quiet the thoughts and thought patterns, which is the path to spiritual development. To reach “inner silence” is not about the absence of sound, like the one achieved in physicists experiments made with anechoic empty boxes, but is instead, a relational process where you relate to the world of thoughts within you and around yo. Would it be possible that by clearing your mind you would dive into the soup from where all thoughts arise ? Some say you can also get in touch with the ultimate reality, what some call as one’s own true self: our divine nature. Many religious traditions imply the importance of being quiet and still in mind and spirit. Buddhism for example, reinforces the importance of silence and teaches us methods to allow the mind to become silent. According to Buddhism is that silence that is the path to spiritual enlightenment. The teachings of Advaita Vedanta, one of the oldests hindu schools of philosophy, mentions the importance of the vow of silence, Mauna, for inner growth. In the west, Greek philosopher Pythagoras imposed a strict rule of silence on his disciples, whereas Jewish sacred text Perkey Avot, which is a compilation of ethical teachings and maxims of the Rabbis, mentioned various centuries ago that: “a safety fence for wisdom….. is silence.”
There seems to be a pervasive trend now leading us to look for more mindful lives, filled with meaning. Recently, Time magazine dedicated one of their recent covers to what they called as the “Mindful revolution” hapenning now, with the coming of the digital era and its increased connectedness. The mindfulness of nowadays is being announced by various wisdom teachers, suuch as Deepak Chopra, Jon kabat Zhin, Dalai Lama, and many others. One of these, the famous spiritual leader of nowadays Eckhart Tolle says that silence can be seen either as the absence of noise, or as the space in which sound exists, just as inner stillness can be seen as the absence of thought, or the space in which thoughts are perceived.
I have been trying to look for that silence, through mindful meditation, as being as well part of the mindful generation. Mindful meditation is a meditation technique based in one of the oldest schools of meditation, vipasana, that teaches you how to look at your breath. And now, sometimes, I like to believe that I kind of silently move into an immense space of a liquid atmosphere, that brings me snippets of peace and wellbeing, that reminds me of the sea.
Could it be that in that dense sea of no words would hold in itself the new ideas to be discovered, in that silent moment of the “no time” ? (maybe the interval between two breaths could encapsulate in itself everything, all the potentialities and the visions to become).
Ways to achieve silence can be as simple as:
- Following the path of the raindrops going down the mirror for a long time
- Feeling the texture of a new leave for a whole minute or two
- Lying in the park and looking at the clouds, and then, tracing the contours of the same cloud, for more than ten times
- looking at the flames of the fire
Something else you could do is to watch a recent film done by Pat Collins, which is a meditative movie, starkly beautiful, entitled Silence. In it there is a character played by and named for Eoghan, an Irish sound recordist returned from Berlin to capture the noise of nothing.A rare indulgence, the one of silence. Intelligenthq
“I’m recording areas away from man made sound,” he tells, in a cryptic dialogue with one of the wonderers he encounters.
“So you’re here?” the man asks curious.
And Eoghan responds:
“I’m here yes, but I’m keeping quiet.”
It does feels like a rare indulgence, the one of Eoghan, that can step out of nowadays hectic pace, to allow oneself the tactile pleasure of stepping into silence and as such, reach the space and stalled time, the space of silence.
I wish you all a quiet Sunday.
Maria Fonseca is the Editor and Infographic Artist for IntelligentHQ. She is also a thought leader writing about social innovation, sharing economy, social business, and the commons. Aside her work for IntelligentHQ, Maria Fonseca is a visual artist and filmmaker that has exhibited widely in international events such as Manifesta 5, Sao Paulo Biennial, Photo Espana, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Joshibi University and many others. She concluded her PhD on essayistic filmmaking , taken at University of Westminster in London and is preparing her post doc that will explore the links between creativity and the sharing economy.