Coded gray.

Sunday 17 June 2007

Screenshot Oblivion

Pic of the day: Sometimes silence can almost be seen. Or perhaps that is tranquility.


Some people fear silence. Perhaps most do. Some people love it, and some a little of both. For me, it varies over time. No… there are hardly any moments in my life that I *fear* silence, but there are times when it does not appeal to me so much. Times when I prefer being distracted, prefer to immerse myself in sounds and images. Yes, at a certain level even images may break the silence. Or at least the Silence.

In the physical world, silence is never complete. There is always some small sound. All there can be is a degree of silence. We tend to adjust to this, so we amplify small sounds when all is quiet. For those who are unfamiliar with silence, or unfamiliar with the silence of a particular place, these amplified sounds may be scary, because they are unfamiliar and often hard to understand. The faint creaking sound of planks moving ever so slightly may sound like someone walking in a house that you know is empty… not a pleasant sound to listen to when you are trying to sleep!


But there is another, deeper meaning of silence. It follows from physical silence but goes deeper, into the inner realms of the human spirit. Poetically speaking, "silence is the language of God". I mean this in a purely metaphorical way, of course. After all, God is not some guy, and the word "language" does not really apply to such a concept as "God". But in a poetic sense it is very, very true. I guess you have to try it to understand it.

In this deeper sense, sound represents all the hustle and bustle of daily activity: Our commerce, and that of others. The many things we must do, the many things that must be said for everyday life to pass in its usual way. All our haggling, all our giving and taking orders, it all belongs to the realm of noise. And there is no end to it. We could lose ourselves in this every day from we rise in the morning till we stumble to bed in the night. For this reason, Judaism and its descendants all set apart a "Sabbath", although it varies with each religion which day it is. A day where no unnecessary work is allowed, a day of quiet. For most people, and certainly in the beginning, such a time of outer quiet is necessary to get to the Silence in the first place.

At heart, meditation is to listen to the Silence. Usually you do other exercises first, designed to bind the thoughts. You may bind them to a certain phrase or mantra chosen by its sound and often also supposed to have a meaning. You may bind them by counting your breath, or simply counting quietly inside. You may bind them to a picture, either a religious icon or just a pattern (such as a mandala) that is made to naturally center and quiet the mind.

In meditation, the road is very much the goal. If you struggle and flail to come to quiet, you will obviously never come to quiet. But just doing those exercises will in itself have some positive effect on your soul, and indirectly on your body. Still, at some point you are meant to start listening to the silence. It will happen naturally, and I have no idea when it starts. Neither will you, probably. If you have been there, you probably recognize it. Some call it "emptiness meditation", but I am not sure that is the best name for it. It conjures an image of hollowness inside. But in practice, this hollowness is filled. Something floods into it at once, something that has always been around us. This is the Silence, the "language of God". (Well, if all goes well that is what happens. I understand that some people go crazy, but this is less common and usually has other reasons as well. Be careful if you have a family history of insanity.)

Like all languages, it makes no sense at first. We are not just like a stranger in a strange land, we are in a very real sense like a baby, newly arrived on the shore of an unfamiliar world. This is why trust is so important at this stage. For me, I trust in God, or at least more than in anything else. Others trust a guru, some perhaps a tradition. I really don't know all the ways that cross in the Silence. But you need to be exposed to the Silence inside for a long time and not be afraid. Only in that way can you begin to hear what it says.

After a while, you can begin to hear the Silence even without the outer silence. It is always there, after all, just masked by all the sound and fury. Much like you can pick out a familiar voice in a crowded room, you will start hearing the "sound of Silence" at various times when all is not silent. You can still lose it in the hectic everyday life, but it takes less to find it again, you don't hear it only on the Sabbath or only during mediation. In between all the other things, it is found more often.

Eventually, I am led to believe, there are those who live in the Silence always. I can't say this from experience. The previous paragraph is as far as I have come, and I may even be backsliding these days. I should not need to do that: My life is a fairly simple one with plenty of time. I am single, so I do not need to worry about children and their future. I rent a small house on the border between the suburbs and the farms, and have no trouble with the neighbors. My job should be the worst part: It requires me to use my mind rather than my body, and interruptions are the norm. But it is only six and a half hours a day. Plenty of time left.

But the thing is, there is just so much entertainment. And it is not evil either. Rather it tends toward good: Whether I fight against villainy in City of Heroes or gently guide my sims toward lifelong happiness in The Sims 2, it feels decidedly non-evil. And yet sometimes the good is the enemy of the best. For even if I had a thousand bodies that did not need sleep, there would still be not enough hours in the day for all the entertainment. But entertainment only fills the shallow part of the soul. The deep part needs to bathe in Silence from time to time. More as time passes, I think. I believe that there is unlimited room to grow in that direction. But I can't report further than I have come. More later, if I know more later.

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: (Sims2) Tiber revisited
Two years ago: Meta
Three years ago: Welcome to the Hotel CoH
Four years ago: DAoC 50 /level
Five years ago: Sims computer reborn!
Six years ago: Relative poverty
Seven years ago: Saturdaily life
Eight years ago: Germans tend to die

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