Culture + Community
The Power of Silence | Typewriter Series
*Before we begin, it is important to note (as Rebecca Solnit does in her essay “A Short History of Silence”) that silence can be and often is a form of oppression; however, for our purposes, we will differentiate between silence that is imposed and silence that is sought and consider here only those forms of silence that are sought by oneself, of oneself.*
Being quiet does not always mean being disengaged, and something spoken is not always more valuable than something unspoken, though we’re often told otherwise by popular culture. On social media platforms, the word “engagement” has come to mean clicking, posting, tweeting, and liking; if you are “engaged” with an issue on social media, you are agreeing (or disagreeing) often and loudly.
But the act of being quiet has a long history, and in many schools of thought, the road towards living consciously and speaking intentionally begins with silence, with the quiet of engaging one’s inner self. Our culture often favors the extroverted, the loud, the first to raise their hands, but many of our world’s thinkers, artists, and healers are introverts, old souls, believers in the powerful magic of silence.
To sit in silence is to sit in the palm of the earth, utterly vulnerable, utterly swept up in the wild, universal pulse that runs through all of us. Meditation, yoga, reflection, therapeutic writing – these are quiet, daily practices from which we simultaneously grow the self and commune with the world around us.
Moments of silence show our respect for the dead, and silence is often a way to show respect for something we don’t fully understand yet. We learn a lot from silence, for in silence, we cry; we comfort one another with a touch or a smile or a kind gesture; we listen and breathe, meditate and reflect, read and research; in silence, we make art.
At times, silence can be more powerful than speaking, because it’s the moment before we say something, the moment in which we take a breath and decide what to say next; it is in these moments that we learn who we are. The following poems are meditations on silence and the powerful inner truths we might find there, if we listen for long enough.