Perfect Silence

by Chris Zook

The best part of nature that I’ve experienced has been perfect silence.  No noise, not even a breeze. That to take advantage of a moment like that can lead to terrific self discovery.  But I have to stress the notion that there is literally no noise involved.  The first time I experienced this concept was at on a family trip to the mountains.  We owned a small cabin on the outskirts of a small town in south-central Pennsylvania.  It was late one night when we arrived and almost everything my family had packed had been hauled inside and my parents were starting a fire.  They sent my brother and I out to get the rest of the luggage.  We got to the trunk of the car and both stopped.  Neither of us moved.  After the driveway stones settled beneath our feet, there wasn’t a noise.  Nothing.  We both even held our breath so we couldn’t hear ourselves breathe.  The only thing that came close to an audible sensation was the blood rushing through my ears.  It wasn’t long before one of us ran out of breath and broke the silence, but it didn’t take long to realize the greatness of the experience I had had.  And once I had experienced it, I was excited to try again.  Several times that night, after my family had gone to sleep, I stayed up and walked outside, holding my breath against the spring warmth.  And that was when I started to remember, rethink, and rediscover a myriad of things about myself.  It’s a process I’ve repeated several times in my life since then, and it’s proven valuable every time.

It’s never been a conscious action; more of an involuntary cognitive twitch.  And this twitch, as much as it reminds me of my past, helps with discerning my present as well.  It’s an opportunity to traverse my memories and see what I’ve been doing over the past month or year or decade.  It’s a massive influx of information that lets me see, from an outsider’s perspective, who I am and how I act.  Like a lesser moksha, a picosecond spent in paradise, in which I’m able to understand myself and walk away from the moment a changed person.

When it’s just me in a vacuum of sound, it goes without saying that there isn’t much going on around me.  From what I can hear the entire world is asleep except for me, and since I’m the only one conscious, I let my mind wander, and it usually chooses to wander through memories.  The peaceful silence acts as a sort of catalyst to newly observing old memories.  Without the distractions of a world on the go I’m able to quiet my life and take a new look at old memories.  I especially like delving into controversial memories, ones in which I feel I am acting in the right, and examining them from the other perspective.  This has always helped me perceive myself.  It’s never been completely accurate, as every different person has different opinions and likes different qualities in people.  But it has helped me see myself through another perspective.  For example, in one situation I could see someone thinking I had overreacted to a statement someone made, or in another it would be possible someone thought I was being too passive during a discussion.  Regardless, I do what I can to learn from whatever memory I’m reliving, and in that brief moment of personal growth, I feel infinite.

Reliving memories has other advantages, too.  While reliving times past, I can draw on those memories and act for the future.  Being a writer, I draw inspiration from mostly personal experience.  Try as I might to avoid it, as often as I start a narrative about a character, I find the character to be in similar situations that I have been in.  Again, it’s not something that consciously happens- it just happens.  Successful writers always say to write what you know.  What does anyone know better than themselves?

Regardless of who you are or what you do for a living, I’d recommend spending some time in quiet solitude.  The times you’ll spend in silence in life are few and far between, and it’s important to make the most of them.  Who knows; one of those picoseconds spent in personal bliss may change your life.  Whether it’s for the better or worse is up to how you interpret what changes, and it’s always important to assess how you change over time.  Sometimes it takes a moment of complete silence to realize that the results of your previous moment of silence weren’t the right way to go.  But that’s the whole point.  Reflection is a valuable tool to any inquisitive person.  And change is one of the few sure things in life.  When you combine both reflection and change, the only possible outcome is growth.