Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Sounds of Silence

What are the sounds of silence? What can we hear in silence? I believe there are three possible sounds of silence and I am sure there are more. These sounds of silence are
(1) language of God
(2) mindfulness
(3) absence of Truth

I have often pondered the meaning of Paul Simon’s song, The Sounds of Silence. This was the original title. Later, it was released as The Sound of Silence. Simon himself indicates that there is no deeper meaning in these lyrics. However I believe that this song, which was written shortly after the assassination of President John. F. Kennedy, had profound effect on the American psyche and therefore on his. This is my own meditation on this song.

Hello darkness, my old friend
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
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

Firstly, God speaks in silence into the void in the act of creation. Sound is only possible if there is an atmosphere. In space there is no sound. That is why many spiritual writers teach us that silence is the language of God. The holy Trinity who is outside the created order communicates in silence. God speaks to us in silence and in words. In his silence and word, God reveals himself driving back the darkness that is a familiar companion to most of us. Where not everyone hears the word of God, God’s silence reaches all, planting seeds of a vision that this world is not our home and we are all on a journey to our true home. The sound of silence awakens the homesickness in our souls and makes us long to hear the familiar language of our home. Our true home is to be with God.

In restless dreams I walked alone
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

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Secondly, the sound of silence is mindfulness. Often known by its other name, awareness, it denotes the self-awareness of us as conscious beings. If we sit quietly alone in a quiet room, within minutes we will become aware of how chaotic our thoughts are and how we hold our bodies in the constant tension of our stressful lifestyles. Mindfulness is the process of examining our thoughts, emotions and spirit to discern what is happening in our lives. Enlightenment often comes as a ‘flash of neon light’-the ‘aha’ moment when we discern the truth on things that defines our existence.

"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence

Finally, the absence of Truth resounds loudly as a sound of silence. This happens when people do not speak the Truth into their lives. Often people are fearful of embracing Truth because of the darkness within them. They refuse to acknowledge Truth because Truth will bring them out of their comfort zones. Instead they prefer to live in the delusions offered by materialism, wealth, glamour and power. They worship at the altars of these false ‘neon’ gods. Truth is all around us if we have eyes to see. It is found in the commonplace of ‘subway walls’ and ‘tenement halls’ which we pass by everyday on our daily commute.

The sounds of silence enable us to hear voice of God, bring mindfulness into our existence and reveal the absence of Truth. Most of us know this instinctively. So we fill our world with all kinds of sounds – so as to drown out the sounds of silence. It is no wonder that the Psalmist encourages us to ‘be still’ (and silent). Only then can we know God.


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