“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet” – Franz Kafka.
Those of you who participated in the Don’t Talk-A-Thon are sharing such a wide variety of stories with me. I must thank you again for being both involved and open about your experience. Like any well-designed activity that includes thoughtful people, the results were not entirely what we expected. I heard two main opinions of the hour of silence.
This brings me to the second opinion of the hour of silence, the one that caught me off guard: there is peace in silence; why don’t we embrace it more often?
I know I said that I no longer find peace in silence, largely because choosing when to be silent is a luxury I hate losing. It makes every silence a tiny prison. Still, when a friend wrote the following, her words resonated with me the more I thought about them:
I’m silent a lot of time, between reading, writing and gardening. I wish we lived in a culture that didn’t value talking, incessant talking, so much. It’d be easier to hear what matters.
My first, sleep-deprived, frantic thought was, “This is not about gardening! It’s about my life!” I wrote back to her in what she would probably generously call a snappy tone.
And that’s the thing that got me thinking in those guilty minutes after clicking send… My friend is generous, and wise, and infinitely kind. Her ideas have always been worth hearing, her words respectful, so what was I missing?
I read her note once more and remembered her passion for gardening. Whether she is working alone or with family, it is clear she is most in her element when quietly nurturing precious little things. She’s got wit and sass – plenty of it – but she knows the value of balance. She understands what Franz Kafka meant when he said the world will unfold for those who wait for it quietly. However joyful a chatty dinner with friends can be, revelation and wonder don’t live there. They live in sitting side by side watching a sunset together, letting yourself feel deeply in another’s presence.
This is such an important reminder for both pALS and their loved ones. Those of us with ALS who are losing our speech will continue learning new ways to “talk” and asking for better technologies to give us our voices, but healthy people will always talk faster and louder than we can manage. We will still be in an endless race to keep up. So maybe, every once in a while, give us a rest. Take us to your garden. Put our stiff, curled hands in soil, and for once, let our breaking bodies be a part of creation. Join us every now and then in the silence until we forget to think of it as a cage. After all, the greatest, freest things are silent…
“See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Theresa