The Art of Silence

If I cast my eye over my writings for the past few years (poetry and creative), the subject of silence, solitude and solace, weighs heavy over the pages. When I then received an article from tweetspeakpoetryBook Club Announcement: The Art of Stillness which discusses a new book by Pico Iyer:  The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere (TED Books). I had pause to delve back into my writings and cast my net wider, across the subject of being silent in a noisy world, and how we need to learnt to cultivate, this lost art of being silent in a frenetic noisy world.

Thoughts, visions, imagery; evoking pictures of silence
Be silent, listen to your heartbeat, and just be
Silence; sometimes the loudest words are the ones not spoken

The writer of the tweetspeak article, LW Lindquist, speaks of the “space between our thoughts”. The importance of the said versus the unsaid, the importance of what is not said, in the moments of silence, which can carry more weight. It is this quest for the power of silence and the solace of the silence, which has been discussed by the likes of Marcel Proust, Mahatma Gandhi, Emily Dickinson and Josef Pieper (amongst others), who have found richness in stillness. The incredible insight that comes with making time for stillness.

In a TED talk by Pico Iyer: The art of stillness  he speaks about:

Our world of constant movement and distraction,
and he teases out strategies we all can use to take back a few minutes
out of every day, or a few days out of every season.

If you feel overwhelmed by the demands of the constant chase and rush, that our society at times demands of us, then I encourage you to devote 15 minutes of your rushed day, and listen to Pico, and then reflect, in silence.

During Leonard Cohen’s five year stay at a Zen monastery, he wrote the poems for his book: The Book of Longing, and he was also joined for a while by Pico Iyer, who writes in his book the Art of Stillness, that Cohen’s “name in the monastery, Jikan, referred to the silence between two thoughts.” It is worth stopping what you are doing and be invited into his (Cohen’s) world of beauty, women, and lonesome hours. It is an emotional journey, honest and direct, still, and sometimes lost.

Decades before the Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast, sat contemplating on how we came to lose our ability to relax and be, and how it could be reclaimed. The very institutions of learning, that were once intended as a mecca of “leisure” and contemplative activity, presently prepare us for a lifetime of industrialized conformity.

Josef Pieper (German Philosopher  May 4, 1904–November 6, 1997) on his model of the three types of work: work as activity, work as effort, and work as social contribution, and how against the contrast of each a different core aspect of leisure is revealed.

Against the exclusiveness of the paradigm of work as activity
there is leisure as “non-activity” — an inner absence of preoccupation,
a calm, an ability to let things go, to be quiet.

A few years back when I was sitting relaxing with my love one Sunday afternoon, she commented:

I’m there, you’re there
We are silent in each other’s presence

Each engaged in our own thoughts/activities, but still at one; it inspired me to pen a sonnet: The Sonnet of Silent Conversations

the solace in the silence
where words are not needed to uncover
the hidden messages of compliance

The silence echoes around the enclosed walls of our minds, encouraging us to break down the alienation and find solace in the silence, and learn the importance of being silent, quiet, amongst those we feel close to, and then taking this silence out into the rushed and frenetic world in which we live. This can aid us to slow down, in this age of constant movement and immediate gratification. When speed is king, anyone or anything that gets in its way and slows the pace down, becomes the enemy. Thanks to speed, we are living in the age of rage. That too is ironic, the fast pace of life alienates more, than the comfort we can find in silence.

By opting out we do not have to drop out.

The Solace in the Silence

Sounds of Separation

the sounds of separation reverberate

across the valleys and the vales,

to some they are sounds that integrate

to others, they lower the veil

Oh to have the adhan chanted in the same tower

from which the bells toll daily

instead the sounds that ring out, rip the air apart

their ringing reaffirms our separation

slave bell, unity bell, prayer bell, it tolls regardless

the tolling of the bell that divides

the minaret, mosque, synagogue and cathedral

shout out and chant; a call for unity, that divides

the bells toll for those who are near

to hear the sounds of separation.

the division bell continues to ring out

oh for the sounds of peaceful silence


© 2016 Michael D Emmerich

The Sonnet of Silent Conversations

I’m there, you’re there

We are silent in each others presence

A comment made to my wife, Tania, when we were sitting on the sofa at home each engaged in our own thoughts/activities, but still at one; it inspired me to pen the following poem.

the beautiful silence between lovers

the solace in the silence

where words are not needed to uncover 

the hidden messages of compliance

the beauty of the silent bonds

that tie two stars into the same orbit

an orbit that does not require one to respond

other than in a soft touch or knowing look

as a means of expressing ones love

intimate hushed companionship, as such

reinforces the strength of silent conversation

the intimacy of conversing by touch

heightens the silent smiles and wink of flirtation

unity in our silent separateness leads to stronger ties that bind

© 2015 Michael D Emmerich