June 7, 2020

Finding the Metaphysical In Awkward Silences

posted on: Thursday September 30, 2010

Tommy Cordy ’13/Commentary Staff

We all hate it — that awkward silence that creeps into conversation and takes an eternity to pass. It’s like your car stalling at a green light. The silence screams at you and no matter how hard you try, the ignition won’t catch. Time stands still. You are stuck sitting there, holding up traffic. When you finally get started again, it is like it never happened. You go about your merry way breezing towards your destination with ease.

These moments come and go every day and we choose to forget them. Today, in our rushed and busy lives we do not give ourselves enough time to breathe. We fill our planners with a myriad of events, meetings, classes, and activities in order to get ahead or to ensure that we are never left alone. We fear the silence and being left alone with our thoughts and uncertainties. But who is to say that this silence, which we are all too happy to forget, is a bad thing? Do we not all long for time to just stop, even if for only a brief second, so we can collect ourselves and put our minds at ease? If so, then why do we avoid silence at all costs?

We are afraid to unplug, to let loose, to put an end to the constant input that prevents us from feeling lonely. It does not make us feel wanted. I don’t feel like I have friends if I stick my ear buds in and turn my iPod volume up all the way while I walk to class. Rather, I feel alone, lost in my own dream that blinds me to the living, breathing world pulsating around me. I am distracted from my existence. I am distracted from living. I am distracted from looking around and appreciating the sites and sounds that inundate my mind, filling it with splendor.

C.S Lewis’s Devil in The Screw Tape Letters warns his young nephew, a new tempter, to be aware of the dangers of letting his human go on a quiet walk or enjoying a good book, for those are the times when they are most vulnerable to “Him,” that is, God. They may realize that they are being tempted. They may find what they really desire — truth, peace, and quiet. I am not saying that every time you turn on the TV or listen to loud music you are being tempted by the devil. All I am saying is that your mind is being pulled away from itself. It is becoming detached, unable to probe itself and come to some realization of what it is supposed to be and why it is there. These are topics for Civ, so I am going to let them be, but I hope you get my point.

We are often told that contemplation, thought, and prayer are meant for our private lives. In The Weight of Glory, C.S Lewis translates and tells us what they are really saying. “Those things are for your private time…which we will ensure you do not have.” Take time out of your day and unplug. Stop assaulting your senses with useless, artificial noise; the garbage that sits and rots in your mind, rendering your senses worthless and turning them into mush. Take a quiet walk, without your iPod. Turn off the phone and find a quiet place on campus to read. The one thing we really need during this time in our lives, when we are most impressionable and decisive about what to do with ourselves, is quiet time to simply think. Be at peace, embrace the silence, and think, even in conversation. Do not be afraid of that awkward silence. Let it be. Take a deep breath, digest the conversation, and only speak when you have something of value to say. Otherwise, relish the few times a day where time stands still and where we truly exist in the moment.

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