Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Of Avalanches and Sheep

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested.

In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other. Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence – indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression. Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved.

When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.

Message for World Communications Day, May 20, 2012

Reflection – Well, the Pope says it here all so very well and so very clearly that there’s not too much for me to add, frankly!

It strikes me here that silence serves to deepen our communication. So often we can bob along at the surface of life: stimulus and response, the latest news and buzz, music blaring, the chattering classes chattering away in our ears. Mass culture and its products can easily fill every waking hour if we choose.
And in all this, we can so easily substitute thought with recycled talking points, slogans, catch phrases, and clich├ęs.

Without becoming paranoid or conspiracy-theorist about it, it seems to me that at least some people in high places are undoubtedly quite happy to have us in that state, sheep being herded from one distraction to the next in an avalanche of media words and images while they do whatever they please (wait, do sheep get herded by avalanches? Mixed metaphor alert… oh well, it will make for a good title for the post!)

We have to find silence in our days. We need to be able to think, to sort out, to evaluate and analyze. We cannot do that with music and media of all kinds blaring away at us constantly.

People will often say that silence is impossible in our modern urban world. They might say that it’s easy for me, sitting in a religious community in the Upper Ottawa Valley, where three cars in a row is heavy traffic and our main ‘noise’ is the birds singing at , to expound on silence.

But… we all have all these gadgets and gizmos and noise-making machines in our lives, don’t we? And… as far as I know, there’s no federal law so far that mandates they be turned on all the time, right? We have choices, in other words, and we can choose towards silence, even if some noise in our world is not ours to silence.

Our world today, both on the big macro-level, and on the level of your life and mine, has serious problems. Serious problems need serious people to do serious reflection on them. And it is in silence that this reflection occurs, and we can become the kind of people our times require.

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