I am recovering from a drawn out case of laryngitis. During this time, there was one particular day when I could not speak. My throat hurt too much. Because I am currently between jobs, I was able to indulge the laryngitis, and allow it to take its time over its tantrum. After all, I did not want it to become truly nasty by feeling unvalidated. At the same time, I spoilt myself. I permitted myself something I now know to be a delectable luxury – I did not speak for twenty-four hours. I simply decided to declare it a vocal holiday. Moreover, I did something I had never ever done before – I let the ‘phone ring without picking it up. Glad of my new rebellion, the transition was easy to a state of mind where I could ignore all but the most urgent text messages and e-mails. When I went to the shops, I used smiles instead of words, to thank the till staff for the receipt and change. They appeared perfectly content with that.
Many ancient philosophers praise silence over speech. Even nowadays, in many Eastern cultures, a person who says little is often considered wise and worthy of respect. In the West, however, wit is valued above sagacity, and people frantically talk over each-other in an aggressive attempt to secure intellectual territory (Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.) My beloved BBC Radio 4 news programmes are a frequent arena of such tenacious and unnecessarily rude interruptions, that it is sometimes impossible to make out what either party is actually saying.
I am a natural chatterbox and this new experience of not speaking for a full day was a true revelation. I cannot express just how refreshing, soothing, grounding and surprisingly empowering it was. Giving myself permission not to speak made me feel powerfully centred and anchored. It was as though by keeping my mouth shut I prevented my strength from leaking out, and I could feel that strength rise and expand within me.
My sense of taste, smell and hearing were naturally impaired because of the cold symptoms. However, my deliberate silence seemed to sharpen my vision. I started noticing new details around me. Strange, but true. Equally strange, but true, is that I felt slightly sorry when my ability – and hence obligation – to speak returned. I would have liked to remain quiet for another day or so.
Many religions advocate regular fasting. My mother is a fervent supporter of fasting for medical reasons, and swears by its health benefits (her latest success was curing her painful disc hernia that way). Fasting does not agree with my body. After all, we all different. However, a “silence fast” might well bring me great benefits.
I wonder if I could get into a one silent day a month pattern. I have friends who renounce chocolate and/or alcohol for Lent. I have never done that. Once, as an undergraduate in the last Century, I tried to abstain from sarcasm but my resolution did not last past the end of Ash Wednesday. Perhaps next Lent, I might experiment with keeping silent. Not for the whole forty days, of course, but maybe just forty evenings? Of course, there could be no cheating with text messaging or tweeting.
Now there’s an exciting thought.
© Scribe Doll