Silence IS Golden

We always hear that silence is golden. After giving it a little thought, I realize that silence is at least as rare and valuable as gold, and probably more so.

Have you ever tried to find silence? It’s tough. Yesterday at lunch, I decided I wanted some peace and quiet. The best I could do was a pizzeria blaring an oldies’ station. It became background noise that I was able to ignore, but my ability to not listen to noise is not the same as experiencing silence.

Because of the way sound travels, there is barely such a thing as absolute silence at all. If you stand outside and beat a drum, the sound waves travel outward in every direction until they find something or someone to bounce off. In the right environment, a gunshot or a drum can easily be heard a mile away, even though it takes sound about 6 seconds to travel that far through the air. By then, it’s not as loud as at the source, of course. But sounds never just disappear, even when they fall below human auditory range. When you are really aiming for silence, it’s amazing how much you can still hear going on all around you.

Silence is valuable not only because it’s rare, but because of what comes out of it. When I pledged Alpha Phi Alpha, the very first thing they taught me was that “silence is the background of all thought.” Most great ideas are conceived and worked on in silence. It’s true that most people will never spend an extended amount of time in silence. It’s also true that most people will never turn a truly great idea into a reality. Don’t get me wrong, feeding your crying baby is a great idea, but the Harry Potter books are a truly great idea, and I’m sure JK Rowling had to get away from the hustle and bustle at some point in order to complete them. We should not be afraid to do the same.

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