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I Recommend Silence
The less there is, the more you you are
In the beginning, I was almost scared. Silence has a noise, if you haven’t grown accustomed to it. My ears rang out with the hum. The Silence was an unavoidable companion that stuck to me like double-sided tape. On odd weekends away, I had liked it, but faced with the knowledge that I had chosen it full-time for an indefinite number of months, I found myself trying to shake it off, or at the very least fill it. Television, music, and talking became a sort of crow-bar between me and the ceaseless stillness. It felt important not to let it fully close in.
The thing about the desert - in this case Joshua Tree - is that The Silence always returns, regardless of how you might try to conceal it. The plains and sands stretch on for miles. It has nowhere to go. It hangs all around you like a warm, heavy blanket. If it does travel, it always circles back to squeeze its silky-quiet tendrils around you - not because it has any particular motivation or hunger, but because it’s stronger than you. It simply is what it is, it is doing what it’s doing and has always been doing for all time, and when you enter its domain, it will always prevail.
It can drive you mad, actually. Oh, I could never, I could never! I often hear day-trip hikers and city escapers proclaim in the coffee shop on Sunday mornings before their drive home. It’s true, there’s not a bar, not really. The nearest movie theatre is over an hour away. New shops arrive, but they’re sparse. When you’re bored, there is no-thing to do. No-outer task that easily comes to mind, no place to fill the hard-to-label and void-like agitation. We all feel this agitation. We all want more, whatever more is. It has become so convenient, so easy to scratch the itch that we’ve forgotten why we were ever itchy in the first place.
But here, you are left with you, and you alone. There’s no cream to soothe the burn, no medication to mask the pain. It can set you fidgeting and restless, draw up long-forgotten pieces of you like splinters rising up and out of your thumb after a soak in salt water. It can send you fleeing, and you could spend the rest of your days filling up the limitless, eternal emptiness with clunky thoughts and objects that may or may not ever degrade, yet regardless always pile, pile, pile.
This Silence doesn’t ask to be recognized, it’s far too fundamental for that. It must be welcomed. Eased in. Consciously recalled. It is available in all sorts of places, regardless of whether it’s thrust upon you through landscape or delicately and knowingly chosen.
And here’s what can happen if you sit through The Silence, if only for awhile:
When you succumb to Silence - when you truly surrender - you might feel as though you’re in the center of a gentle vacuum. It’s buoyant, but it pulls at you, too. It can be overwhelming at first, claustrophobic in its vastness, even, but if you close your eyes and release into its depths, it is in this exact space that you are revealed. The hum that’s left is entirely your own, a special and specific type of vibration that only your ears can generate.
You might realize for the first time that this is the sound of being. Simply being. Breathing, existing. Alive. This is it, this is the sound. Here you are, being you, and now there is nothing in the way of that. If you hold that state, and open your eyes, you might see, truly see, that there is no distance between you and the sky. Not in any way that really counts. You can reach your arm up and touch it, and there it is, your arm immersed and resting in cloudless blue, suspended like an apple hanging from an invisible, etheric tree.
You can travel further inward, too. Connect the little pieces of your innermost self to the grains of sand below your feet and the noiseless air around your head and palms and chest. So small splinters will rise, okay. So agitation may reveal itself to you, okay. So you may want to walk, or run, or leap out of your own skin. Okay. Sit through it. Let The Silence answer those calls.
Sometimes it’s even frightening to be you, to realize who you are, how you you really are, how small and close and far and delicate and powerful you are. But if you grab a raft and relent to the flow of the glossy quietude, if you offer up even yourself - the hum, the vibration - to it’s boundless waters, if you’re truly courageous enough to abdicate control - the utter humility of the experience can feel almost euphoric.
Swaths of goodness can break upon your skull like candy spilling from a piñata. See? There is nothing you could do, and nothing you could ever have done. It’s almost comical, the release. The inescapable you-ness. What other choice do you have, did you ever have, but to be here?
And in this reprieve you might find that it’s actually miraculous - glorious - to be where you are, with nothing between you and the are. It’s not the feeling that you can touch the sky, it’s that you are the sky in all the ways that more or less matter. Were you ever not the sky? The sand? The purple-ish hue at the bottom of the sunset? And is it true that you were once afraid? And is it true that you once wanted to flee? To be the sky in this way is to feel at peace. And to feel at peace is to live in gratitude with The Silence.
You might ask yourself, my god, what have I been listening to my whole life? What noise? What has seeped through my ears? Where did it go? What have I been subjecting my canals too, when all the while this waited for me?
And with deep respect for this Silence, the sounds that occasionally live above it become not interruptions to its rhythm but contributions to its divine, orchestral symphony. They are the sounds that rest upon the quiet, the flits and bursts that surf its velvety waves.
Occasionally a bird-song cuts through the air. Or the wind picks up, and rattles the chain-link fence. At dusk, big beetle-like moths come to drink from your flowers, and they sound like a concert composed entirely of polite kids climbing hay-stacks. A pack of coyotes howl in the distance. It’s their silence to break, too.
And as a thanks for the aforementioned gratitude in your patience and observation of it, the Silence might give intermission from its constancy and speak back, though not in words. It speaks in breezes and metaphors and instructions for happiness and continuity. It wordlessly offers up pink flowers on a tree you had no idea would bloom. It turns the sky lavender at 7pm as a sign to begin your trek home, and removes the sun at 8pm so that you know when to seek shelter from the elements. It warns you of sunburn with its shade, it tells you what you mustn’t touch through spikes on the cacti or scorpions wedged between boulders. There’s news of medicine in the creosote bushes released through smell, but only when it rains, which makes it more potent as an oil. These are the ways in which The Silence, in collaboration with Nature, speaks to you, if only you turn off the music, the talking, and the television to welcome it all in.
Before you embraced The Silence, this dialogue was observed in absolutes and wasn’t taken as a conversation, but as facts that held little bearing to your existence. All this was only what you saw, as you always see one thing or another. But after The Silence, everything you see and touch and hear is a gift. It is strikingly obvious instruction. It is all a message built for you and your fellows.
And here, here of all places, there is nothing to block the reception of that message. Not after the surrender, not in the open space. No tree to pluck its total judgement from your ears, no ocean to lull you with its musical shores. The literal sights and sounds and distractions you associate with the world are mostly absent. Each moment is an unfurling reminder of your total here-ness. You are here and you are only here, over and over and over again. You are a chord sustained on a note of no-thing. You might find that this Silence is you, to the center of you, and it is where you came from, and where you are going.
And this is lovely.
I recommend silence. For the infinite offerings held within its deceptively quiet arms.
I recommend silence. For the lack of distance it creates between you and yourself.
I recommend silence. For the serenity of coming into contact with gracious and pure unfiltered being.