Summon silence through selfless service.
My head has been noisier over the last week or so. Do you find your inner narrative or volume fluctuates? I'm not sure my fluctuations are tied to the ebb and flow between stress and peace of mind; I feel relatively focused, though not entirely productive.
Covid’s spindly little arms continue to hold tight 3 weeks later. I continue to feel one step removed. Deep focus comes while I'm heads down at work, but when I pick my head up and go for a walk, I can’t come to rest, can’t locate solitude, can’t hear beyond the noise, can’t think quietly.
“I am partial to most forms of voluntary silence. I love what is implicit or present in outline, that which summons (as opposed to imposes) thought.”
- Louise Glück
I come to Glück’s voluntary science with Hyde's begging bowl: I am creating the outline meant to summon thought, but silence is not present, the outline is a finish line.
What are we to do when we cannot turn down the volume? When despite our best efforts and past proven processes, silence escapes us? Are we meant to wait? Be patient? Continue to grind? Strive to balance the sweat with stillness?
Should we find peace in knowing the silence will return? Can we be confident the silence will find us? Or do we need to go after it with London’s club: track it, pursue it, club it, capture it and ground it, just to be near silent? Perhaps.
Though, I do worry we have reached the event horizon: silence no more. The world is just noisy. What happens if silence is no longer possible?
Surely silence is harder to come by regardless of where we live or how we engage with the world: content is everywhere; anywhere we look, there is always something to be consumed, that which takes up the space to quietly think.
So what are we meant to do without silence? Can we still summon thought with our own voluntary silence and patience and attentiveness in a not-so-silent world?
Maybe the amount of silence doesn’t matter as long as we are aware of the different degrees of silence we have access to? And if we pay attention to the noise and sounds within each of our roles, if we can identify the noise in any one of our individual identities, we might find one where the volume is turned way up. And we might understand, with the volume turned up in one area, we can only summon so much silence in the other areas of our life.
So in this way, summoning silence becomes active: we can’t simply wait for the silence to arrive.
So when our voluntary silence is interrupted, we must first focus on the silence we possess, and activate the silence within the quiet spaces of ourselves to then commit resources and align these more peaceful identities to lower the volume across our noisier parts.
We must actively search for the noise, we must open doors within ourselves and search for the loudest rooms and work to lower the volume.
In pursuit of silence, we must first listen for the noise, track it down, and silence it, or at the very least, lower the noise and temper the reverberations.
Once we have quieted the loudest space in ourselves, instead of returning to the idea of silence we first desired, maybe we sit with this newfound silence in this new room and wait for a new outline to appear.
And here, maybe, we’ll come to understand that this act of summoning silence is more about the act of volunteering: we must consider silence a selfless service.
When we contribute to the silence and peace of our loved ones, and consider how the noise in each of our identities impacts their peace of mind, the summons will resonate, the outline will appear, the silence will wander, find them, and maybe, come for us.