We are living in very unusual times. We’ve been instructed to self-isolate, stay at home and only venture outside in emergencies. There is much fear about. There is uncertainty. There is a virus out there killing people and, to date, no one knows how to stop it never mind cure it. There is no vaccine and there appears to be no end to its virulent invasion, knowing no barriers, race or creed. Maybe it’ll just disappear, die, or just go away; no one knows. Meanwhile we’re being told about frontline services and people in danger. The National Health Service is under unimaginable strain and we have a UK Government who can’t decide on any strategy that will bring this to an end. Amidst this danger, risk and uncertainty there is an extraordinary peace. Usually, there would be planes flying overhead, rudely punctuated by screaming military helicopters who use the large gothic church close by as a landmark. There would be traffic and busses, there would be the smell of fuel in the air, there would be pollution. Today there is silence, apart from the birds who have returned and the noise of weather, wind, trees it’s pretty quiet.
It would be nice to discover that the original song by Paul Simon, ‘Sound of Silence’ had profound and historic relevance. But it’s known that it was written as a simple song, with a great tune and gave him and Garfunkel their first number one hit.
Then there was John Cage’s ‘4’33′ three silent movements totalling four minutes and thirty-three seconds. An actual composition, a silent piece of music. In 1951, he visited an anechoic chamber at Harvard, a foam-padded room designed to absorb sound. He sat and listened—and heard only the pulsing of his own heartbeat and the blood rushing round his body. He came to the realisation that there would be no such thing as true silence.
It is hard to imagine or even come close to absolute silence especially as emotional and beat-centred creatures. Yet we have the tools to aspire towards it. Find a time and a place during this very challenging period where you can meditate, pray, sit quietly, be encouraged, energised through the silence. As it says in the Old Testament ‘After the fire, the still small voice’.
Listen through the silence and be inspired. Be motivated by the silence while we have it, and write, compose, out of that experience. Listen to nothing, hearing everything and then interpret using your skills and abilities. Then be grateful that alongside this terrible pandemic there are some things we can learn and take forward into wherever the future may hold.
The Sound of Silence; try writing your own.