the sound of silence

So you may be wondering why I haven’t posted in, oh, four months? I won’t bother complaining about the difficulty of writing a post a week during a busy life, because it’s just not the case. Rather, let’s say I’ve been … hibernating. Or, in storyteller’s terms, keeping silent. At least I’ve been trying to. In some ways, such as blogging, it’s been easier than in others, such as the rest of life. But I have made the effort.

In our Western culture of the self, speaking out is a good thing. Hey, I call my own monthly storytelling slam VOX, short for Voice of the People in Latin. Presumably, the people’s voice is something that should, at least in theory, be nurtured. Add to that the public speaking class I’m set to teach at my university in two weeks, or the 10 years I spent as a Toastmaster, and you can see that I’m as heavily invested in NOT keeping silent as is the culture in which I was socialized.

And yet. We in the storytelling world commonly extol the virtues of LISTENING, especially as it relates to HEARING, which pretty much anyone can do who possesses two working eardrums. Listening is an active task, or, as academics would say, an act of agency. It requires intentionality. How many of my students have sat in my classes, stone-faced and glassy-eyed, appearing to listen but actually, in terms of consciousness, miles away? How many times have I done that as a student, a worshipper, a friend, a wife?

As a performer, teacher and fairly affable human being, I do a great deal of talking. I am told that I am fairly good at it. How I wish I could be a better listener, however. How I long, sometimes, to be able to just drink in—and digest—new information, so that I will no longer feel depleted, or, perhaps worse, bored thinking my thoughts and listening to myself. I feel a hunger much of the time to just get some new input. You know what they say: Garbage in, garbage out. 

I’m not saying I don’t read the paper, books and magazines; listen to NPR, or talk to people. What I mean is there is a silence that is active, the silence that comes with being fully present when information, opinions or emotions are being expressed, that I can’t always say I possess. My silence during these last few months will, I hope, contribute to my future posts, in that I have taken in, learned, thought and felt, rather than simply given.

I have always believed that giving, whether words, money or assistance, is the ultimate good. But I do it effectively unless, occasionally, I must stop.


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  • irenesavarese  On June 21, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Hi Caren glad to see you are posting again, but I have to say that I love this post. I think that we do need to go inside for some inner work and there is nothing wrong with wanting to stay away from too much interaction from time to time – I think it is healthy!. “The silence is active” – meaning we are moving even though we are still.

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