Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Warning About Silence

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Estimated reading time — 2 minutes

Everyone, regardless of their particular mental state, has a curious kind of background noise in their minds.

When that noise takes the form of original music, we call it being a genius. When it sounds like voices, we tend to call it schizophrenia. A single voice is often referred to as religion. Most people go through their entire lives without ever being consciously aware of this omnipresent aural phenomenon, save for in those rare moments when it catches their attention. Perhaps they think they’ve heard their name being called, or that they’ve been listening to the air rushing through the vents in their house. One way or another, though, the noise is there.

You can hear it if you listen for it: Lie down in a quiet room, and focus on clearing your mind. Mute your internal monologue, erase the scenes from your imagination, and let yourself sink into the silence. Before long, the whispers of that hidden soundtrack will become evident, then grow louder as you learn to recognize them. It could be that you’ll find answers to questions you didn’t even know you were asking, or perhaps discover a sense of inner peace that had been lacking in your life. Some folks refer to this as meditation, even if they’re mistaken about what’s really going on.

The truth, you see, is much less comforting.

If you’ve ever gone walking in the woods, you’ve likely encountered a cacophony of noises. The songs of birds, the chirping of insects, and the quiet rustles of small animals rushing through the undergrowth become so commonplace that our minds tend to tune them out. What we notice, though, is what happens when a predator draws near: The chorus abruptly stops. The forest becomes deathly still. A person walking amidst that sudden silence might feel the hairs on the back of their neck start to rise, and notice their heart pounding with a mixture of adrenaline and dread.

When you listen to the sounds in your mind, it doesn’t matter what form they take. What matters is that you can hear them at all. As long as that clamor is present, you know that you’re safe. All is well, even in the most tumultuous of times. The danger arises when that noise seems to stop; when you suddenly experience the most potent silence that you have ever encountered. In that moment, you may start to feel as though you are being watched.

After all, in that still forest… the predator is the quietest of all.

Try it for yourself, if you’d like: When next you are completely alone, imagine you are listening to a sound of some kind.

When that sound seems to stop, you’ll know that you’ve been noticed.

Credit: Peter O’Shamseign

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