One may eventually come to terms with the fact that much of communication happens without words, and verbal acts simply function as semantic anchors that attempt to stabilize a connection between the actor and the receiver of the language act. These connections, needless to say, do not need words in order to be made, and as we have come to realize in the past few decades, the opacity of language may even cloud this implied connection.
Such was my train of thought in a recent meditation on the nature of silence. Silence, of course, is not simply the absence of sound, but the total emancipation of sound from any humanly purpose or origin – one could maintain a moment of silence in the loudest situations, or be disturbed by the faintest sound of crickets in the countryside.
The immersion of the city-dweller in unstoppable noise has become a global dilemma. The noise of the city, totally artificial, has made the city dweller crave for a space of rest where they can be left to their own sensory faculties, free from the imposition of stimulation by another power. The power dynamics of noise is often obscure, but one only needs to look at who controls where and how noise is distributed within the city’s geo-sensorial ecosystem. Noise in the city, like mine tailings or trash, is dirt shoved into our faces; it is sensory abuse and oppression. It stresses us towards affective and spiritual fatigue, making us less motivated to act upon our miserable circumstances.
So what is the value of silence among friends? I love how friends can share a moment without any purpose or intention – everyone can share a slice of silence and communicate only with each other’s presence. Such silence, unlike the silence of privilege, is not selfishly hoarded, but shared.
Even amid the horns and sirens and rushing motor noise, silence shared among friends, lovers and comrades is powerful because it is active – it resists through being shared, and more importantly, no one needs to talk, language is rendered redundant. It demolishes with a whimper.