I used to think I had a whole lot to say. A friend joked that I must have had a daily word quota. I was, well, verbose. Teaching seemed a perfect fit for me with all that strutting and crowing I was able to do at the front of a classroom.
Perhaps the most obvious change I’ve noticed in myself as I’ve gotten older is the attraction that silence holds for me. Some who know me might contend I can still hit my quota now and then, but generally speaking, I prefer listening or even the absence of that – just being.
I find that I’m not as certain of what I think these days. That will quiet a person down. The impassioned, assertive, and sometimes obnoxious speechifying of my youth seems somehow . . . dangerous . . . scary . . . unnecessary. It has been said that wisdom begins at the place where you realize how little you know. Well, I must be getting wiser, because some days I don’t know my ass from my elbow.
I also no longer feel compelled to engage in the energy drain — oh, god, the energy drain — that comes from the dogmatic pedantry of head-driven conversation. Some days even the very lectures I’m paid to give my students leave me with, at best, a feeling of exhausted detachment, and at worst, a particular sort of soul weariness caused by over-analysis or maybe just by the verbalization itself. It’s as if the thoughts are creatures of mayhem made immensely more powerful in the act of speaking them into existence.
As mayhemly powerful as my spoken words might be, however, I have learned they are but cowering and skittering field mice when compared to the elephantine magic of my silent intention. More is accomplished through my silence than I can ever wrangle into being through circumlocution. Some problems actually solve themselves without me controlling them. Who knew?
I still love words. I still love teaching and speaking and writing. But, the silence speaks, too. In fact, silence, it would appear, actually has a few things it would like to get off its chest.
The words that spring forth from the place of stillness are words that contain the essence of silence even in their audible form. They come from a completely different place, and they have a completely different impact. Those are the messages that energize me when I allow them to come through. I also believe those who hear them are somehow enriched or at least a little more aware of being alive, and they may not even know why. I’m sure I don’t know why. I just know that the message is somehow less important than the place from whence it sprang. And the words that are born in silence have so, so much more to say than I could pack into a thousand days.