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Why I Hate Silence...
... and why I need to get over it
I came upon a fierce silent man in a café last week and he freaked the bones out of me. He was talking to a woman who's part of our local café society, a woman who's a riot of noise, colour and laughter. I adore talking to this woman.
I decided to sit myself down anyway, even though the fierce silent man was already making me uneasy. He was sitting in a way that made it look like he was about to take flight, perched at the edge of the chair, his long legs at an awkward angle. He was cradling an empty paper cup.
A Noisy Conversation
The Colourful Woman and I began talking eagerly about her recent trip to a concert in Dublin. She was full of tales about expensive pints, Jim the Gypsy and celebrity photographers.
The tales were noisy in the telling, and in the response., and were punctuated by raucous laughter.
Through it all, the fierce silent man continued to say little. When he did speak, it was a propos of nothing we said. Which made me wonder if he was even listening. And he didn't laugh. Conversing in his presence felt like climbing up a cliff face without crampons.
Photo Description: A pic of an unsmiling man with a long brown beard and a khaki T-shirt. This is not the silent man I’m talking about, but the stern vibe is the same.
After a while, another punter came into the café and the fierce silent man said to him:
'You'd better stay outside or you'll be deafened.'
I'm A Noisebucket
When I’m thrown into the company of silent, still people, my skin prickles and I yearn to escape. I find myself talking louder, to fill the silence and quell my unease. I watch myself doing it and I cringe, but still I am unable to stop.
Noise is my modus operandi. I never developed an indoor voice. As I write this piece, beats thump away in the background; I tell myself the music shuts off the noisier parts of my brain.
When I walk into an empty room, I fill it with music or a podcast. If I wake in the night, the sound of voices on a radio sends me back to sleep.
I grew up in a noisy house, with people streaming in and out at all hours of the day. We crowded around big tables, talking and laughing all at once. Being a lively talker was a prized commodity. And still when we gather as a family, the conversational ball never drops.
A Relationship with Silence
To me, silence is loud. When a silence falls in company, or when my music stops, I feel deafened by the howl of my thoughts. If I say any more than that, you might politely suggest I call a therapist.
Yet I know that if I'm to be any good as a writer, I need to be comfortable with silence. There are always exceptions; Maeve Binchy wrote with the radio on.
But most of the writers I know seek silence, to help them find their inner voice.. And there's a reason why silence forms part of so many spiritual traditions, both religious and secular.
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So, I've experimented with silence from time to time. I can read in silence;filling the vacuum with words. In the stillness of early morning, I sometimes wait before I put on my podcasts.
And I find the silence has a texture. My ears probe the layers of sound within it.
I'm sure I will annoy many more fierce, silent people in the future. I'll always believe in the creative power of noise. But even a noisebucket like me needs a pinch of silence now and then, to keep me balanced.