Silence – Its Many Facets

By: Munawar Alam

Speech is silver but silence is golden. Silence has enabled me to have deep meditative thoughts and to figure out its deeper inherent values. Certainly, it is God’s gift to homo-sapiens. I have discovered so many facets of it.

Since the writing club meeting, where we discussed the issue of silence, it has made me think - in the evening - while walking - in the night before sleeping, about the essence of silence - what silence can bring - what are the various meanings of silence – and how silence can be interpreted. This morning, I thought about it again- the meaning of it, the benefits it can bring, and the impact silence can have on our lives.

So I have thought that I would write about (my own experiences with silence over 2 weeks. I am observing myself more deeply in trying to understand my mind, my body and my well-being with regard to silence. In thinking about the different aspects of silence, I was experimenting with silence itself.

As I close my eyes, and let my mind wander directionless, to peep into the world of silence, I hear deep within me, the throbbing of my heart, at first faint, but as I go deeper in to silence, the throbbing becomes louder and louder. I feel my heart rising as sea surges during a storm, heaving up and down, like a monster.

Then I leave my body, and see myself sitting at my writing table. I say goodbye, at last free of this body, and travel through the glass window, and on to a higher level. I first see only my house, then a few more houses and then more, till I see streets, and cars, then tiny specks of human habitation, crawling like insects, until I can no longer see the spoils of humans on this planet.

I then flutter in to stillness and darkness of a black hole. Everything is so quiet and dark. I have no thoughts and I am totally still, at ease with myself. A certain joy grips me, and I sit motionless for a while.

Sitting alone in silence, with eyes closed, gave me a very soothing and comforting effect – similar to the Arabic word, Sukoon(1). I went into my own deep thoughts almost like meditating, and heard the inner voices of my heartbeat, sensed my stomach going in and out with every breath, and neural formations spiraling in the space of my mind. It was utter concentration and oneness with the universe.

The calmness induced inner thoughts, and merged with a certain confidence - that up there, someone is taking care, and I don’t have to worry too much.

This one is surreal and omni-pervasive if you allow yourself the luxury of silence of mind.

But there is also another kind of silence which is the silence of suppression.

For speaking out in favor of education of women, Malaila was shot at, to be silenced. While advocating religious harmony, Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of non-violence, was silenced. In many countries, the voices of the oppressed, downtrodden, and underprivileged is throttled in many ways. They create a desert and say it is peace. In offices, the bosses silences a junior if the junior speaks out of turn. Many women get brutally silenced in homes, and in work places. The activists raising voices for human rights get silenced. I have also seen many express their grief through silence, due to some pain or loss.

There are also those who sit absorbed in a shop, in the midst of commotion, in peaceful silence over their cup of coffee.

During the evenings, walking with my wife, I sometimes become irritated by her irksome orgy of words. However I prefer to silence myself, not opposing her ideas and thoughts, for fear of another world war. So every day I too make a wise decision, that of maintaining silence to keep my sanity. Most husbands follow this golden rule of silence. It is called the silence of wisdom.

At the end of the day, individuals have to take a call, on whether to remain silent or voice legitimate protest. To remain silent over a just cause, is the biggest crime against humanity. Again, the call is yours and mine.


(1) Sukoon means calm, peace, relief, serenity, tranquility, wholeness.

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