What quiet people know about silence.
We’ve all known quiet people in our lives. People who talk very, very little. Or, when circumstances would welcome opinion or interpretation, say very little.
These people know silence, and their silence is astounding.
There’s a paradox about self-expression that always bothers me.
Occasionally, there will be a set of circumstances where the only way to express oneself is through silence. Where the vocal answer is to say nothing. (I can’t think of an example at the moment, but try to think if you’ve encountered this.)
Perhaps a situation where you’ll do damage by saying something.
Or, where saying something will equate to taking sides.
There are times where saying anything will show your hand, and you want to keep your cards hidden.
The paradox is this:
Silence comes in only one flavor —
Now, when there’s unexpected silence where there should be commotion, there is a phrase for that. It’s known as “deafening silence.” Let’s pretend this kind doesn’t count.
Otherwise, silence exists as a passive entity.
Nobody looks for it. Nobody comments on its presence.
That’s the crux: silence has presence. Someone who wants to speak, but cannot, has silence as their courier.
Silence is spectral.
And when seen, hardly ever recognized for what it is.
Silence ought to come in magnitudes of volume. A person could dial up their silence to a recognizable level. It would fill the air like a vacuum. Like a picture frame, surrounding nothing. Like a skeletal blueprint. Like an enormous line with a period at the end. The Japanese are hip to this. Their written silence even comes with different options of post-exclamations: “. . . !”
But true silence is a complete omission.
And — unless it’s out of the ordinary — you can’t look for what you don’t expect to see.
There’s great freedom in silence too, but that’s for another time.
Silence is white paper.
Silence is deep space.
Silence is invisible mortar.
Quiet people know these things.
Most of us, don’t.