Since my Silence Project stalled some 13 months ago that there is now new hope for those of us that embrace calm and quiet. In part two I shall expand on Slow TV and the appreciation of zero action but today it’s purely about silence.
To recap, in February 2017 I went to the British Library in London on a rainy Saturday to read a book about silence and to experience the concept in a pure environment. When I returned the book to the librarian she asked me in hushed tones why I had borrowed that book as it was the first time it had been requested. When I told her I was in search of silence both on paper and in her place of work she guffawed ‘Silence in this place? That’s a joke!” When I asked for an explanation she told me about humming heating/air conditioning, frustrated academics closing heavy tomes and lots of sighing. I also noticed two professor types pacing between desks as if they were auditioning for the art of ‘deep thinking cop’ in a Scandi crime drama.
I lost heart in the project and walked away from it. This was not only because of what the librarian said but in that short time I realised that the peace of mindfulness I was seeking was not going to be unearthed.
In the greater scheme of Mental Health I do not have any deep problems. I do have some anxieties but having witnessed profound anxiety closely I feel my own condition is not that of a sufferer and is more akin to that of the frustrated artist coupled with what I never wanted, but always predicted; regret of things not achieved.
As a young man I dabbled in various creative tangents but found neither the great talent within me nor the passion to dive into anything that might have lead to greatness. I held a conservative course and am paying the cost now. The good news is that because I kind of knew this would occur my regret is dampened and my anxiety is with the aid of a few legal chemicals, maintained at a low level.
I am surrounded by people that vent, splutter and dish out commands and find that with my Duck’s Back approach, I can handle most days. I have worked out that if I look and act calm then I can be so. This is amusing because when I trained as an actor in the 1980’s and a Performance Coach in the 2000’s the approaches were to work on the inside and to let it work its way out. Somewhat like a cold, a bowel movement or even love itself. ‘Learn to love yourself’ they’d say and then others will love you too.
I am not saying that these ideas are rubbish, but I am saying that sometimes if you hold an external position, it can internalise in a positive way too. These can lead to moments of quiet anguish and a fuddled brain but thus far it has worked. I have learned to stand still and stoic. Madness happens around and I can let the brickbats hit me knowing the longer I avoid retort, the stronger my position becomes. As I said, this can lead to a build up of internal damage, but in a world where everyone seems to be firing off all the time, it is right now, the better option.
4.43 a.m. I was standing at a window looking across the street. The silence as I now know was fake. I could hear my own head-buzz, I could sense the electricity in the street lamps and could certainly hear the nagging of Ted the cat. Yet despite the noisy quietness I found a new thing; stillness. All was still and the street scene became one of visual silence. It was certainly not an absolute, nor one that can be kept going for long, yet for the few moments before I broke away to run the bath tap for Ted to drink from, I sensed a new way of touching calmness.