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Silence in two extremes

Erin's picture

Silence is a precious item to find on this planet. Therefore, I picture it as the mystery hidden under the deep sea. Silence is far away but tempting. To visualize the concept of silence, I choose to use the deep sea as the representation of silence. Even though I describe silence in my graph as unknown, mysterious and isolated. My impression of the word silence is positive.

I think silence of the state of absolute concentration and calm. I think I can only be with myself and discover the real self in silence. Silence is hard to find in nowadays. As a fan of yoga, my favorite part is the meditation practice. During that period of time in silence, I am fully concentrated and all my thoughts are suppressed temporarily. I can feel the exact pattern of my inhale and exhale in every breath. I can keep track every bit of tiredness in my body. The growing awareness of self is accomplished in each meditation practice. Also, such silence is particularly valuable for me due to my living environment. Over 10 million of people live in my city and everyone is always in a rush to get to somewhere. Everything and everyone around me are making some kind of sound. All kinds of sound, usually noise, such as traffic, irrelevant conversations are constant background sound in my life. As part of this crowded and lively city, I was busy socializing too. Being a talkative person growing up in a busy city left me with no space for silence. The first time I ever experienced the silence in the meditation in yoga, I found myself more powerful and energetic. The vision is clearer and the mind is straightened. I seem to have a better control of my physical and mental capacity. Every since then, I became interested in such practice to gain better understandings and control of myself. I find myself can focus better after each silent experience and I also seem to be able to solve the problems in my life more easily. Through the practice of silence in each meditation, I can leave out all the background noise and see the essential part of the problem. When I cut the irrelevant parts, I am able to see the optimal solution.

In this sense, silence is my way of maximizing my potentials and start again in a better condition. I choose to be silent and get away from external and internal noises to gain a better vision of myself and the situation I am in. Sometimes it’s still very hard to find even brief silence in my life. However, the silence is my freeway to express my anxiety and drop some overwhelming stress. I always think the silence gives me strength and help me find a better direction to go to.

After the discussion in class, my opinion of silence changed. I started to think it as two extremes of emotions, the extreme calm state of blankness as described in previous paragraphs and the state of overwhelming emotions that words can no longer describe. Sometimes, the words are too powerless to capture what we want to say. Rather than not fully express the feelings, people decide to remain silent as a response.

I remember the morning when I found out that m grandfather passed away. Just that morning, I decided to make a surprise phone to congratulate my father’s birthday. Even though, I had known the fact that there was no way that my grandfather would get better and recover completely. When the moment came, the news was too cruel to accept. My father was trying to remain calm and pretending that he had accepted. He was trying his best to comfort me in the surprise call. I can felt the heaviness in his tone across the 12 time zone. At that moment, I felt no word can explain and express my feelings. I just remained silent, so did my father.

That was the saddest call I made ever since I came here four years. I felt so many emotions and had too much to say at once that I lost the ability to talk. Both my father and I felt that being silent was the only reaction we could had. I felt the helplessness, sadness and love he was not able to say to my grandfather and in his silence. For me, I was just stunned at the sudden tragedy and didn’t know what to do at all.

The invention of languages gives human medium to communicate and capture the beauty of the world. However, there are sophisticated moments in our lives that the language lost its power to express. Sometimes, the silence can present the complex emotions better.

I appreciate silence in both extremes. The first silence provides a blank state of mind to see myself clearly and help me regain strength to keep moving on. The second silence hides the weakest spot in my emotions and explains everything I want to say in those moments when I lost the ability to react.



Anne Dalke's picture

A "freeway" from anxiety and stress

You  were one of just two members of the class who decided to stick with her original image: yours is this very evocative (really: mind-blowing) attempt to represent "absolute silence," "deadly silence": "sound in its own frequency" that is not heard (and so does not exist?). And you were the only member of the class who prefaced your image w/ words (is there anything interesting to say about that sequence? Which is "more silent," words or images? Does that question even make sense?).

When you return to your image for a second reading, you make it clear that absolute silence is, for you, "unknown, mysterious, isolated"-- and (when attained in yogic practice) emphatically positive: concentrated, calm, self-aware, with powerful, energetic effects of focus, control--and even problem-solving! I love the image of silent practice as a "freeway" that carries you off from anxiety and stress.

What that set-up, I was surprised to read your description of the silence you shared with your father on the anniversary of his birth, the day of his father's death. That was clearly a poignant moment--you describe it as one of "helplessness, sadness and love" on your father's side, of "tragedy" and not knowing what to do on your own. And it was as clearly a time of shared communication in silence, a time when words were inadequate.

[Might you not have been "silent" in moving from the one sort to the other? Explaining explicitly what you were doing? I would then have been less confused...]

At the end, you compare these two sorts of silence as "extremes": one of blank "clarity," the other of shared expression. I wonder if they really are such opposites, though? Aren't both states those in which understanding comes w/out words? In the first case, within the self; in the second, in shared communion with another?

And of course I'm REALLY curious to hear your response to the essay by Kim and Markus which we're reading for Tuesday, in which they argue that, in expecting our East Asian students to conform to an American cultural = educational ideal --of talking as expressive of intelligent thinking-- professors like me are not recognizing "that what these students have to do is not as simple as 'just talking more' but actually changing a dense network of cultural values and beliefs about how to be a good person." I'll be interested to hear of your own experiences and thoughts in this regard....