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      Volume 11 |Issue 39| October 05, 2012 |


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Writing the Wrong

Silence: The Mother of Truth

Sharbari Ahmed

“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.”
---William S Burroughs

Here's a conundrum for you: people are afraid to be alone and the state of alone-ness is one of the main certainties of being we all share. So, we do everything we can to avoid it; sometimes we do very self destructive things, like shoot up or subject ourselves to unhappy relationships that drain us of our vitality. We avoid silence and stillness because we deeply fear what's on the other side of that stillness. Our own ravaged face looking back at us, perhaps. Yet we are also vain and want to see our own faces. So, we post millions of photos of ourselves on social media sites and change our profile picture hourly and wait with baited breath as people weigh in our good looks and good fortune: “you are stunning, lovely as always” people stroke us, and for a moment we feel loved, it's illusory, but we feel it. Yet, we are alone in a room while we do it.


It doesn't matter how many friends we have, or even if we are in a happy partnership with someone -- we are all essentially alone. I am starting to understand on a very deep level that only I am responsible for my well being, my health, both mental and physical. My life is my obligation. Living well is my duty to myself. No other person is going to save me from alone – ness; I am blessed enough to be loved by and love many but no one else can actually make me happy. No amount of accolades, compliments (which I LOVE getting and giving), material wealth, fame, youth, beauty, toned abdominal muscles (though that has a practical aspect to it as a strong core keeps my bones strong), publishing deals or creative breakthroughs deviates from the immutable, impenetrable truth of our state of being.

The writer William S Burroughs talks about alone ness a great deal. He was a brilliant, incisive writer and a junkie, in fact he wrote a book called Junky. Addiction is probably one of the alone-est states to be in. There are, of course, all kinds of addictions or compulsions. As he states in the above quote, some people are so afraid to be alone they are compelled to talk continuously. I think it's a form of addiction.

They talk over you, under you, around you and through you. They talk when there is no one else in the room. They talk when everyone has checked out and is thinking about their laundry, but because they are so busy talking they do not notice that your eyes have glazed over and a string of drool is hanging out of a mouth that has been slack jawed for the better part of three hours. They weigh in on every bloody subject even if they know nothing about it. They make dinner parties intolerable, especially small ones and drown out everyone's voices, and if one (me) is not patient, one just might lose it with them. This happened to me recently and all I could think was: my God, can anyone not see how this person though very nice-is just talking a bunch of crap and will not stop until someone sits on them and forces them to shut up? Am I alone in this room? The answer is, yes, I AM alone in this room.

What I am starting to understand is that the more someone speaks, there is a very good chance the less they know. Even if someone is actually intelligent and wise with illuminating facts and figures to share, sometimes they need to keep it to themselves. And the wise ones, more often than not, do. They know precisely when to speak and what specifically they should say. It does not mean they are too studied or calculating, as there is a gulf of difference between cunning and wisdom, but that they understand there is a time and place for everything, especially words. Wise people actually try not to have opinions on every bloody thing. It is not an act of cowardice to be neutral at times. I think it might be about knowing what exactly to have opinions on. Everything in moderation, even sparkling repartee, is the key to peace.

I used to be called a chatter- box when I was a kid and I talked because I wanted attention. Even as a rambunctious child, I knew I was talking way too much, I am surprised no one duck taped my mouth shut. My family indulged me, I suppose. It came from a deep-seated need to be heard, seen and acknowledged. My smart friend, Ameena, pointed out that no one can actually see you only YOU can see you clearly. You and the divine, which is actually the same thing.

I have been trying to practice silence inner and outer, but it's slow going and I am starting to notice that when I am rambling away, it is because I am fearful of something. I think it might be death, i.e. extinction. I think that goes for all of us. I am starting to realise what the origin of my fear is. I am the youngest of four. My two older sisters doted on me. I remember being cosseted between them, much cuddled and loved. I liked my siblings better than I liked my parents because they made me feel safer and were much more indulgent, and less like grown-ups and more like responsible play-mates. Then, one day, when I was six or seven, my sisters left. They got married to two, strange, hairy men in a double wedding (that was televised on a local station in Connecticut) and left. These men co-opted my sisters' attention and convinced them, for a time, that I was their spoiled little sister, that there was no other side to me and as lame as it is, I am still VERY pissed off about it. Apparently.

All this being said there are those, who should NEVER be silent because theirs are the voices of our collective consciences. They are constantly yelling out into the wilderness because they have very important things that NEED to be heard, issues of social justice and humanity. Sometimes their silence is ominous for the world at large. It means they were willfully silenced as in the case of Aminul Islam, the garments labour organiser, who was tortured and killed in April or the myriad of other courageous voices, who use words to better the species and fight for those who can't. Their deaths eat away at our souls.

Say it with me: I am alone, and no amount of yammering is going to change that. I am alone, and it's perfectly ok.

I think if we own this truth, imbibe and internalise it on a meaningful level, we might in fact be liberating ourselves from a lifetime of unhappiness and inner turmoil.

“Silence is golden and words are made of lead, and in the alchemy of love, you know some things are better left unsaid.”-- Michelle Shocked

* The title is taken from a Benjamin Disraeli (Queen Victoria's PM) quote: a man I would have married had he asked me.


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