It’s not something I’m too comfortable with. Even now, I’m writing this from a coffee shop because–being the extroverted guy that I am–I like to be around things that are happening. Silence and I don’t get along well. For a while, I even associated him with Darkness because I would encounter the two of them almost exclusively together. But I’m learning every day how Darkness pretends to be a bad PR rep for Silence.
It’s weird, because Silence isn’t new. Meditation and prayer are, in effect, spending time with Silence in order to find something greater than ourselves. It's often in those moments that we feel alive.
I think I first really met Silence in Paris. I met him at a restaurant while eating the most flavorful food I've ever had–and in a way I had never experienced before. It wasn’t like salsa poured over a taco salad or a steak that was drowned in A1 sauce. It was quiet. Subtle. And the seasonings didn't feel the need to take all the attention. This is rare in the States. Americans like fast, so our food isn’t prepared with such precision. Maybe that's why we want to cake our food in heavy sauces and dressings.
In fact, it seems like a lot of American culture is in a constant brawl for attention. In a land of individual competition, the winner is the fan that scream the loudest, or the movie with the biggest explosions, or the flashiest, most colorful advertisement. It’s not that there is anything inherently bad about each of these, but when each one is competing against its peers in public, it becomes a lot of noise.
Consequently, we have become numb. Well-researched articles lose credibility by the flashing ads that surround it. The flavors of a Maryland Blue Crab are crushed by Old Bay. Soul-bearing lyrics are drowned in a sea of over-production.
But there’s a new trend in which Silence is beginning to be celebrated again.
Art galleries have been consistently good at this. An exhibit isn't when you file through a rolodex of paintings. No, it is all very intentional. You walk into a white room with maybe three or four pictures on an oversized wall. You step up to one of the paintings and it’s all you see. Your peripherals are freed from any distraction and you are drawn into an intimate moment with it. Suddenly, its texture begins to make the seas move; its colors set some mood lighting; and you begin to hear a story. That’s magical. That’s art. Brought to you by Silence.
Indie films are also great at this. One of my favorite movies is Drinking Buddies. It is relatively short and there’s no script. Wait, what? Yeah. The “writer” had a basic outline of a story and a list of emotions required for each scene, but that is it. The actors were left to say and do whatever seemed natural. Dialogue is less of a driving factor replaced by the micro-expressions and body language set in between the few lines of dialogue. The work as a whole becomes a lot more intimate and arrests your emotions in a very real, relatable way.
Greater Hollywood has noticed this trend and is moving in that same direction. Gravity was a hugely popular movie starring Silence. It even got an opening credit: "At 600km above planet Earth...There is nothing to carry sound. No air pressure. No oxygen..." This choice in casting brought a new lens to the sci-fi action movies that keeps us at the edge of our seats. Instead of jumping at loud explosions, our hearts race and palms sweat as we hear Sandra Bullock’s breath quicken and spin uncontrollably into the quiet vacuum of space.
This is a significant movement for us. I think we, as a culture, are tired of being attacked by the noise of advertisements, product placements, and over-production and are returning to revere Silence. Social media sites like Medium are giving up ads for richer content; clothing stores like White House | Black Market are giving up a wide variety for quality and style; and magazines like Kinfolk are using less content per page to give readers a chance to intimately engage in stories.
Silence is golden. It forces us to slow down and delve into the richness life has to offer. I'm gradually learning to cut out the noise and spend some quality time with my new friend, Silence.