Women sitting on the shore of a pond early morning

By Barry Barbe
Across The Street Columnist

Chess is a game played in silence where you contemplate your opponent’s move, while calculating your advance to ultimate check mate.

In music, silence is used in building to a roaring crescendo. In drama, the “dramatic pause” is used to draw the viewer in through suspense.

Recently, I had the opportunity to ponder the power and weakness of silence.  As with many things, there is no way to explain how differently silence affects each of us.

Silence in and of itself, is just that.  Silence.  It is not wise, charitable, nor certain.  It is silence, nothing, void.

Walking out into the dark evening surrounded by silence allows us to reflect on our day, plan for the future, and appreciate those that mean much to us.  In mere hours, the silence is broken by the start of a new day full of potential.

In human communication, silence takes many forms. It can be used as a sign of reverence and respect, or to imply disdain, discomfort, acceptance, or intimidation.  Silence is one of the most useful, yet most confounding methods of non communication.

Most everyone recalls a point growing up where the “silent treatment” was used as a means of punishment. Whether it was your grandmother, teacher, or friends you hung out with.

In the Amish community, silence is used as a means of banishment.  It’s called shunning, an act of disapproval for not following the ways of the Community.  “Social Shunning” is actually practiced quite often, and at one point in our lives, we have all participated in it.  It’s especially common to exercise Social Shunning in a day of social media, and political discontent.  – you simply “un friend” someone, and they, in your world are silenced.

Silence speaks more profoundly than any spoken or written word, leaving us to determine its meaning, as we contemplate a response.

And sometimes, there is not enough silence as we are inundated with the day to day noise and messages that consume us.  It is as if there is either too much, or not enough to placate us.

There are several well known quotes on silence, and as with any current musings, I took to the “interweb” to search for profound quotes regarding silence.  With a few exceptions, most remained, well, silent on the subject.

“Nothing strengthens authority, more than silence” – Leonardo di Vinci

“We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King

“Be silent if you choose,’ but when it is necessary, speak – and speak in such a way as people will remember it.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“Experience teaches us that silence terrifies the most.” – Bob Dylan

“Your silence speaks volumes.”

“By silence, I hear other men’s imperfections, and conceal my own.” – Citium Zeno

When it comes to conflict, or issues and behavior we do not condone, our silence can be interpreted as enabling.  For with our silence comes acceptance.

“Silence is not always a sign of wisdom, but babbling is ever a mark of folly.” – Benjamin Franklin

“I think 99 times and find nothing.  I stop thinking and swim in silence, and the truth comes to me.” – Einstein

And … “If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.” – Einstein

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln

To interpret silence might appear folly, but being silent, or not engaging with others comes at our own loss.

We come into contact with a multitude of people every day, more than we realize.  And far more people than we could ever engage with.  Yet, how often do we intentionally choose silence throughout the day.

How many opportunities are missed?  How many stories have we not heard? How many conflicts could have been avoided?  How much have we not learned by our own silence?  And, how many times have our beliefs and opinions been decided for us by remaining silent?

There is value to silence, and there is risk at speaking out and engaging.

Silence does speak, and sometimes, the cost of silence is too great to not risk being perceived the fool.

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