One of my favorite books of all time is The Chosen by Chaim Potok. It is about two boyhood friends both raised as orthodox jews in New York, one is named Danny who is raised by his parents in “silence.” Within a year of reading this book Simon and Garfunkel came out with their classic song “Sound of Silence.” I can’t tell you how many times I listened to the song while I lived alone in the small city of Mena, Arkansas.
I read this weekend the following: “If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing,” perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves.” — Pablo Neruda. It made me think of The Chosen, the song Sound of Silence, and the benefits of meditation and quiet.
As I get older, I value quiet more and more. After leaving a loud restaurant the other night and stepping out into a starlit sky, my whole body felt relieved. But for me the best form of silence comes when I listen rather than speak.
Maria Popova wrote this week about what listening can be — a heart-expanding, life-enriching, world-ennobling art of attentiveness. It is a wellspring of self-understanding, of empathy for others, of reverence for the loveliness of life, evocative of philosopher Simone Weil’s memorable assertion that “attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.”
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
Silence like a cancer grows