What is Silence?

by Joe Lever

Scary. Beautiful. Needed. Hard to find. Isolating. Healing. Rare. Here.

Silence is scary. The silence of the night convinces us that something is lurking, waiting in the shadows; it is the frailest of protective veils at any moment to be pierced. In conversations silence hangs over us, drawn out second by excruciating second, as we wait for a response that does not come; wishing they would say something – anything – if only to break the suffocating silence growing in between.

Silence is beautiful. A natural, peaceful silence which hangs over the hillside before dawn is a blanket drawn across a world at rest; it is tranquil, and safe, and right. The easy silence of two people comfortable in each other’s company, where the words are felt without having to be said, makes the world feel simply good. The best art speaks silently, wordlessly, an instantaneous transmission of feeling; none of its energy is lost in sound.

Silence is needed. We need it to think straight, to take stock, reflect. We need it to sleep, switch off, press pause on a world that always has something to say. We need it to focus in on just one thing, to pick out a single note buried within an orchestra of noise. We need it desperately to counteract the loudness of a world of people shouting over each other, shouting each other down, shouting because everyone else is already shouting. There is no room left for silence in these interactions, and so we need it all the more.

Silence is hard to find. The streets are always rumbling, the buildings always whirring, even the trees are always whistling/rustling in the wind. Headphones in, music blaring; on a phone call, heels hitting the pavement; in the pub, shouting to be heard over the throng of voices competing for airtime. Everything is noise nowadays, and noise is everywhere – the city breathing it in, expelling it out again in the lights and sirens and advertisements and cries and shouts and laughs, the noisiness of life itself. And even when you do draw the curtains on the world outside, the noise echoes on inside your head.

Silence is isolating. It separates us from the world, makes us outsider, other; it draws a bounding line around what and who is deemed to matter. To be silent is to be forgotten, to be met with silence is to be ignored, to experience silence is to be excluded from the conversation, left out, left behind

Silence is healing. It gives us time and space to process, time to feel and space to be. It slows time down, affords us moments of quiet contemplation, or quiet observation, or even quiet nothingness. Where we make time for silence, we make time for healing.

Silence is rare. It cannot be mined and refined, packaged and sold and stored, saved for later. There is no conversation, nor conservation effort which can restore its presence or preserve its place. All talk destroys it, all argument undoes itself.

Silence is here. In the small moments, the side streets, the spaces between. Can you hear it? Listen.

Silence is scary, and it is beautiful.

Silence is needed, but it is hard to find.

Silence can be isolating, and still it can be healing.

Silence is rare to hear, but silence I swear is here.

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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