Sunday, July 1, 2012

The silence we've broken

I sometimes get a sense of living in a carefully constructed play.  There are cues, there are prompts, there are notes in the margin.  These prompts, or synchronicities, are like a blue pencil marking the script, and one such synchronicity occurred the other day.
May I share it with you?

The first sign of the blue pencil came when I read a quotation sent by a friend in an email.

"Let the words you speak," it said, "be worthy of the silence you've broken."

I was very taken by that statement.  In fact I decided to expand my thoughts in a letter to you:

"Do we," I wrote, "truly value the space that words occupy, the silence they come from?
As an experiment, could I ask you to pause in your reading for just a moment and say each of these two words aloud . . . slowly and reflectively.
Are you ready?
'Space' . . . 'Silence' . . .

Your experience may well have been completely different from mine.  But, for me, the word 'space', when spoken aloud, stretches out and almost literally pushes away the clutter in my mind, enabling me to pause and reflect.  
In much the same way, 'silence', when spoken aloud, first hangs in the air and then recedes leaving the quality of the silence behind . . . a silence that is not empty or dead, but full of content and potential.  Space and silence are powerful.  
Do we, I sometimes wonder, think that space is only for filling, and silence only for breaking?"

At that point in my musings the morning paper arrived.  Leaving the computer, I made myself a cup of coffee, then sat down to browse through 'The Times' and tackle my daily Sudoku.
Half-way through the paper I had a surprise, the blue pencil had struck again.  In an article entitled, 'Music isn't the food of life, so don't play on'. Giles Coren had written:

" . . . Time was, the only musical notes you heard in the Olympic arena were national anthems.  The bruising military triumphalism of the old Soviet marching song in eternal binary opposition to the unfettered silliness of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' . . . Not any more.  This year the Olympics will follow Champions League football,  Twenty 20 cricket, WWF Wrestling, 'Gladiators' and Spearmint Rhino by using loud pop music to "enhance" the action . . . The Olympics is about physical endeavour, human ideals, international politics and sporting excitement.  Why must there by music? . . . Music used to be rare and special.  You travelled long distances to hear it, spent money to buy it, relished it when it was there and missed it when it was gone.  Now you'd have to travel a million miles to get away from it;  it is free, it is rubbish, it is a ubiquitous low-resolution ear-carpet of horror . . . "

I get the feeling that Giles Coren doesn't consider the music chosen for the Olympics to be worthy of the silence it will be breaking.

I hope the cosmic script-writer won't see the need to prompt me again on this subject.  As proof that I've taken the message on board, I've a plan in mind.

When the streets of London are thronged with Olympic visitors, when the all-pervading music drowns the applause in the Olympic venues,  remind me to start each day with a few moments of gentle reflection.
And what better theme for that reflection than those two words we mentioned before . . .

'Space' . . . and . . . 'Silence'