Silence, Additional Subthemes
Four posts have drawn from that many pieces of art a variety of subthemes regarding silence. The posts included “Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls,” a poem by John Donne, “Jane Avril Leaving the Moulin Rouge,” a painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, “The Sounds of Silence,” a song by Simon & Garfunkel, and “North by Northwest,” a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Sainte. A few other subthemes of silence that don’t relate directly to any of the four art pieces deserve mention.
Silence Enables Communication: All languages use silence to separate words. Music uses silence to demarcate individual notes. Silence between notes sets the tempo of what we hear. And, too, when a musical piece ends, silence punctuates it – just before the applause fills it. Morse code relies on pauses between the stream of dots and dashes as do smoke signals with the timed release of smoke. Paradoxically, without silence we could not communicate nearly as significantly.
Out in Nature: When the sounds of civilization fade or disappear, when the cacophony of motors, honks, airplanes and leaf blowers is left behind, people relish the peace and quiet. The particular silence of nature encourages calm and solitude. Not that birds stop chirping, leaves stop rustling, waves stop breaking or cicadas stop humming, but the intrusive din of urban electricity, traffic, sirens, shouts, and combustion ceases – nature lovers revere the quiet.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The restful silence of the outdoors contrasts with the incessant, noisy bustle of city life.
Utter Silence of Outer Space: Because sound waves propagate by the vibrations of atoms, when almost no atoms exist – as holds true in outer space – no sound waves can stimulate human ears. In the interstellar voids, even super-novae blast stars apart in blanketed stillness.
Deep Thought: The intense visualization, concentration, rapid combinations of concepts and thoughts that accompany thinking through a problem may not allow their expression in words. When people plunge into deep thought, observers can tell from their silence. Silence enables the rapidity, creativity, and profundity of deep thought. Words come too slowly for the rapid mental mixing and ranking of thinking. Some people find out what they are thinking by talking, but most people can’t multitask: they need “sessions of sweet silent thought” to wrestle in their mind and sort out their thoughts.