The Virtue of Silence
The Virtue of Silence
Of all the virtues that most men and women disregard, it is silence. People go about in their everyday lives not even noticing the beauty of one’s “inner silence.” Try an experiment: Close your eyes. Tune out the sounds from everything that’s surrounding you, and focus on what is going on inside you. Take a deep breath and just listen. How many inner voices did you hear? Most people do not even realize the amount of noise that is carried around in the human body. As you can see, even in the remarkably noisy age we live in, the real noise is on the inside. But even these noises can disappear if one wishes. All one needs to do is study one of many religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism. Each of these religions have many techniques for meditation, and their reasons for wanting to find “pure silence” are generally the same.
This reason for finding your inner silence is basically the same for every religion, but to go about and reach this perfect sense of serenity can be accomplished in many ways. Each religion has their own set of steps to reach Nirvana, or utter bliss and perfection. Buddhism, for instance, has many different levels of meditation. Each level reached will take you into a deeper silence of meditation until you reach “rightful meditation.” Rightful meditation is the “sinking into total silence. Silence of the senses, silence of inner muscular tone, silence of feeling” (Da Passano, 23). Although it takes much time, this method is not difficult. One has to be able to drown out all sounds so that there is no sound to be heard. It’s as though it doesn’t exist.
The Christian and Jewish methods, however, differ greatly. These two separate religions believe that to go about reaching a state of perfect silence and meditation, one must pray to God. Both of these religions teach that if a person wanted to drown out the rest of the world, including one’s own self, that person must pray. A meditative prayer where people fall into a trance, allowing only thought to occur. No sound can penetrate their thoughts. Absolute, utter silence.
Christianity, and mainly Monasticism, believe that silence keeps the heart and soul pure. By not speaking, one may not taint their lips with “evil”. Hence, in monasteries, monks take on vows of silence. They believe that with the help of God they can overcome the urge to speak evil against anyone else, thus keeping there souls pure. This, however, is much harder than it seems. Jews and Buddhists do not always need to keep silent. Jews meditate and pray on a weekly basis. Buddhists, too, don’t feel as though they need to take on a full time vow like the monasteries demand. It is detrimental to a monastic lifestyle that a vow of silence be kept. Its importance is to help a monk concentrate on his prayers and his love of God. People who disregard this important rule of monasticism are not tolerated because they can bring down the feeling of holiness in other experienced monks.
But it is not only in religion that people seek the shelter of silence. People feel like they need to find the silence in themselves, so as to escape the chaos of everyday life. It is difficult to deal with the nonstop, never-ending noise that is produced. Sometimes I feel as though I am suffering greatly because I cannot escape the disgusting noise pollution that we live in. I live in this world, and everyday I feel the need to bang my fists against the ground, wondering when the noise will cease, and the bliss that is promised in every advertisement for every product from automobiles to hand soap, will at last be mine. It is in the silence that people find themselves. Here they have time to think and analyze all the things that occur in their lives. Solitude can be helpful to the most stressful person, or to one who is all alone. May Sarton once said, “Solitude is the salt of person hood. It brings out the authentic flavor of every experience” (CR, 940). I agree with Sarton because when alone, one is hardly lonely.
Silence doesn’t necessarily have to be a good thing at all times, too. After speaking with a professional therapist over the issue, I learned that silence can be considered symptoms of many different things. Depression, for example, has symptoms of silence and solitude. Anyone looking to always be alone and never wanting company from others may be suffering from depression. Different anxieties and phobias can also have symptoms of silence. In truth, silence isn’t always a good thing.
Silence can be beneficial to everybody, but only if used correctly. Silence helps an individual find and understand their inner selves. Allowing one’s self to stay silent can help control impulsivity. To be able to control your mouth and what you say is a great feat only achieved by few. You tend to think things through much more thoroughly and clearly when in silence. But according to Dr. Ken Klaristenfeld, silence might not be such a good thing after all. It depends on the person and the situation to be able to tell if that particular silence is healthy. If someone is silent constantly, then maybe he is hurting so deeply inside that he refuses to speak. In this case, the silence eats away at his soul and makes things worse. But even so, no silence is always bad. Dr. K believes that silence, when being used correctly, also teaches people to be much better listeners to others, but most importantly to one’s own self. To be able to hear your own thoughts and feelings is something that everybody should try to do. No matter if it is for religious reasons, or personal reasons, finding silence can sometimes be the perfect cure for anything.