January 28, 2014

By Taylor Nichols

Photo by Shaylee Vigil
Photo by Shaylee Vigil

In American culture today, moments of silence are few and far between. Silence is frequently interpreted to mean nothing, when in reality it can communicate far more than words could ever express.

Having nothing to say can cause people to perceive that you are dumb, rude, or apathetic, and a lack of response in the midst of a conversation makes people feel uncomfortable. We as a people have forgotten how to simply be, both alone and with other people. We are afraid of being seen doing nothing.

Almost everyone has at some point pretended to text when they are alone in public to avoid the judgment of others. Music is playing almost everywhere you go, people are talking and cars and other city noises prevent silence in most public areas. One must actively seek out silence to find it, and we often neglect to do so.

While as a culture we don’t focus on the positive impact solitude can have, that is not to say that people don’t individually appreciate silence. The issue is not that we don’t have a fully developed awareness of our need for this experience, but that we as a society don’t emphasize or encourage experiencing life as it is, in quiet and thoughtful reflection.

When you’re surrounded by people and noise all the time, it’s easy to forget the importance of embracing silence and seclusion. When you are alone with your feelings and thoughts, doing nothing, hearing nothing and interacting with no one, you are forced to see inside and actively explore your own mind.

Silence can be the key to developing an awareness of the true self. This is highly valued by many spiritual people and much more so by some Eastern cultures and religions than Western ones. In other cultures, silence is associated with wisdom, patience, spirituality, and inner peace.

Solitude can be a scary thing. We as human beings are social by nature, and our everyday routines reflect that nature. As a result, we often fear this silence and time to reflect because it forces us to think deeply about ourselves instead of others.

People tend to be drawn to those who talk a lot or speak eloquently, and we value people speaking because we think that having something to say indicates intelligence or knowledge, when in reality much of what people say every day is arbitrary. Communication is an art, and words are only a medium.

The presence of distraction in our lives in the form of television, music, cell phones, and idle chatter from the people around us prevents us from experiencing life in full.  The technology of our day and age allows us to be constantly bombarded by noise and other distractions. It’s easy to feel sad and lonely when you take a moment to yourself, so we shy away from these opportunities.

The ability to be alone and engage your mind inwards is a valuable one. It is an essential part of human growth and without doing so we blind ourselves to the infinite depths of the mind and soul. If we place more value on thoughtful reflection and personal growth and focus less on constant noise and distractions from various media as a society, we will build a nation of happier and healthier people. Individual growth could have a hugely positive effect on the psyche of our population, which would spread that positive impact to all aspects of our lives.

One thought on “January 28, 2014

  1. What a great subject for your letter, Taylor. You are right, that our society rarely values reflection and solitude, which are so important.

    The paper is looking fine and you’re clearly doing a wonderful job as editor. Keep it up!

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