Several years ago upon walking into the room of an elderly patient in the hospital, the noise of my heels on the floor startled her out of a sleep state or so I thought. I apologized and she shrugged it off. She was 91 years old with a long history of chronic leukemia. Two days later, I happen to walk into the room when her husband who was 90 years sat by her bedside. He was holding her hand and as I approached she was again startled out of her reverie. Again with deep apologies I examined her and noted her progress and left the room. She continued to improve and was discharged a few days later. I realized as I reflect back on that time; the power of silence.
There is something to be said about the power of silence. We are constantly inundated with powerful messaging, the clink and clang of technology, the seduction of verbal contact, the force to communicate to everyone, to no one in particular or just reclaim the beast of “being alive.” Where has all that solitude gone?
A person seeking solitude was at first considered a hermit, now he or she is considered an antisocial and in some circles labeled as an anomaly of human behavior. Yet we are forever trying to hide in our rooms, bury our ears beneath pillows to drown out the noise, wear noise-cancelling headsets, turn up the volume of the music that feels good to drown out the cacophony of daily life. Why?
There must be an edge to silence over noise!
What is it?
In Finland the power of branding to increase tourism has taken on a whole new meaning. The country has espoused and advertises the “Silence” to attract tourists as the quiet getaways from the humdrum of daily chaos. And they are winning over the hearts and minds of their segmented population. Wealthy citizens of this world buy islands to escape the ticker-tape of life. Why?
Children growing up, sleep for 12-14 hours a day during their first year of life, this sparks neural growth and their brains increase three times in neural density and synaptic connections. Mice brains relegated to silence also grow more neuronal density. In humans, with neuronal density and a plethora of new synaptic connections, new ideas take shape from old memories and experiences that are stored within. From new ideas come new actions and the world changes! We make better decisions away from the constant noise that robs us of our peace and inner strengths.
Professional skiers, swimmers, runners, and other athletes before any performance will close their eyes and imagine their moves. Why? Because in the quiet of their brain they are able to evoke the countless hours of positive imagery developed and stored during practice and training. Some wear headsets tuned to their favorite music, others just the noise-cancelling headsets for silence.
As the daily grind and the cacophony to join this that and the other, to be known, to be heralded, to be retweeted, to be liked or to be commented about takes over our being, but through it all, the quiet seems also to have a quiet resurgence. In the 1980s 9% of the adult population was single now that number has steadily climbed to 16%. Solitude is not an illness or a disease of the mind. It is a conscious voluntary act of living in harmony. Just like silence is not measurable in ounces or pounds, in dollars and cents or in good and bad, solitude too is without metrics, except maybe in happiness!
Solitude and silence does not mean the absence of love and friendship. It means the opposite: tethered to the wings of silence, the two achieving greater heights in thought, in friendship, in love, in affection and in living.
The 90 year old lived for a few more years in the firm and ever present loving hand of her husband. When they passed away it was within a month of each other. The transference of the sole energy of each other’s silent love ceased and life became meaningless for the survivor. Their love was in the silence and their touch.