On a sunny Saturday morning, I woke up at 6.30, determined to beat the crowds to the 107 art gallery in Redfern to catch their latest exhibition, only to reach at 9, and found out that they open at 12.
So. I hopped over to the Scouts‘, ordered the usual, and thought about silence.
“Human beings have a natural inclination to silence. It is a deep longing.” – From the book I was reading.
Sitting in a cafe with lovely wooden tables and fresh table plants, yet surrounded by loud booming bass lines, I sincerely wished at that moment that more of us know of and appreciate this natural inclination.
If that is our natural state, why has our notion of silence come attached with notions of emptiness and stagnancy? When really, the opposite is true – silence is full of all other sounds, amplified by their absence. Silence holds the potential of all possibilities possible in the world. Silence is filled with introspection. And from introspection comes meaning. Silence has an impenetrable depth which we can’t even begin to imagine, until we are immersed in it. Silence brings us back to our true nature.
But because we have been fed and bombarded with sounds motion from the moment of our birth (just look at the toys and games children grow up with today), we have been conditioned to turn away from the silence within. We spend our lives then looking for means to achieve the happiness we so desire, when really, it is within us all along. I now think that when the wise ones said “happiness comes from within”, or something along those lines, they were really referring to that wellspring of true silence within us. The deep longing for happiness might really be a longing for silence. Why else would we feel peaceful and relaxed when among the quiet mountains of Chiangmai, the slow-moving backwaters of Kerela, the vast ocean of the pacific, or when we simply sit within the peaceful tranquility of a library? The “natural inclination” refers to the potential we have to reach that silence, and hence true happiness.
As I was jotting down my thoughts, the girl seated opposite me at the communal table stole a few occasional glances at me. She was also alone and was reading the newspaper as she munched on her brunch. As she got up to leave, she leaned over to take a good look at the book. “I always like to look at what others are reading,” she smiled.
Unfortunately, because of the pumping bass, I only registered what she said AFTER she started walking away. I would have loved to pass her the book and let her flip through it, maybe share some thoughts and start a meaningful, memorable conversation which we both would have enjoyed or benefitted from. But nothing like that happened. She walked away and I, hearing and registering her words too late, continued to sip my latte, surrounded by the booming bass.