HAYDEN HOLLINGSWORTH: The Importance of Silence

Hayden Hollingsworth

Is anyone else tired of television news?  You cannot turn on a cable news channel without being assaulted with “new” information.  The anchor person, surrounded by a bevy of experts are all talking (or shouting) about the latest thing to happen in the world.  These are important pronouncements to which attention should be paid. The pace and repetition soon dulls the importance of the message and one longs for the calmness of Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and countless other newscasters of olden times.

It makes one seek silence.

This is simply a reminder that we must be diligent in the search for silence.  Why should we care about the bombardment of noise, newsworthy or otherwise?  It is only in the sound of silence that the mind can make its special music.

Max Picard, a Swiss philosopher of the last century, wrote a treatise in 1948 entitled The World of Silence.  It has recently resurfaced and a quote worth remembering is found there:  “The human spirit requires silence just as much as the body needs food and oxygen.”

A bit of hyperbole there, but the basic idea is sound.  If we are sinking in a sea of noise, the time for quietness of the mind will be in short supply.  It is possible that we are addicted to sound and that is fed by our unwillingness to let silence have a place on our mental stage. We may be afraid of what the mind might say.

When we are inundated with disturbing news several things happen.  First, there is the inescapable feeling that we have heard all this before.  There may be a new twist but the underlying message is the same:  Things are a mess!  Is there anyone who can be trusted?  Second, a feeling of helplessness settles in like a fog.  It seems that there is certainly nothing we as individuals can do and third, those in positions of influence seem to be polarized to the point of paralysis.

It is times like this when silence can sometimes bring a correcting perspective.  There is always more than one way to interpret any situation but it takes a quiet mind to listen to it.

Solitude is the best starting point and that gives birth to silence.  It is a time when the Quaker adage is quite apropos:  Speak only that which improves silence.  Solitude brings silence so the soul can sing the song we need to hear.

In the words of the Irish poet/philosopher, the late John O’Donohue, “We put terrible pressure on our minds when we tighten them or when we harden our views or beliefs; we lose the softness and flexibility which makes for real shelter, belonging, and protection.”

In the silence and solitude required to deal with the constant noise of a frenetic world, we can hear the sounds of nature doing their quiet work and realize that we are part of a universe that is silently evolving.

Breathe deeply and listen to the music of the spheres.  There will be no worrisome news there but it’s possible that we can hear the distant song that is called peace of mind.

Hayden Hollingsworth