Friday, February 28, 2014

a year of silence


  Elevators can be wonderful oases of quiet. I love the peaceful solitude as i wait for my floor. Sometimes you can smell the traces of previous occupants. Scents of food, smoke, perfume, new clothes and chewing gum are left in their wake, as necessity forced them to pause for a moment.
  In my experience, i have found that people riding elevators tend to quietly look forward, as if attending a church service. Often when people are in pairs or groups, their conversations will be hushed or cease altogether.
  Of course overzealous cologne application, cell phone conversation, and piped in music can easily dissipate this almost reverent atmosphere.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

a year of silence


  I am more aware in almost every aspect of my life now. Noises feel amplified, while fleeting moments of quiet have become more noticeable.
  I can be anywhere, in the city, a suburban neighborhood or in a public building, when suddenly i'll realize that it's actually "quiet". These instances usually last mere seconds, and i use the word quiet in a relative way.
  Now that i have shut my mouth and the clamor in my head has settled, these ephemeral moments have become much more apparent. I am able to listen to the breeze, hear the birds and enjoy the rhythmic padding feet of the dogs i walk. I'm becoming more attuned to "quiet" sounds.
  Sudden noises or loud machinery have become almost unbearable, however. They startle me and i have an immediate urge to get away from them as quickly as possible. They have the same effect as large boulders dropping into a still lake.
  Ideas for new art projects are coming into my brain at an ever increasing rate. Solutions to problems are occurring to me without the usual tumult. The trivial is now quickly recognized and discarded. My patience level for things (other than noise) has increased dramatically.
  A lot of the noise that has always bothered me all my life, may very well have been in my own mind.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

a year of silence


  At this point, i'm fully committed to my pledge of silence. Even though the obstacles i'm encountering are steadily growing in number, their effect is lessened by my firm belief that this endeavor is worthwhile.
  In the back of my mind, the feeling that there is no all encompassing meaning to life is ever present. It's very possible that the best you can hope for is to accumulate as many anecdotal moments of happiness, any way you can, before your inevitable oblivion. It doesn't matter whether it's by pursuing an idea you deeply believe in, raising a family, or indulging in every hedonistic pleasure that comes your way. As long as you're not harming anyone else, there is no "bad" or "good"... there just "is".
  Some believe that becoming involved with something greater than yourself is the best way to experience life. That having a single all consuming passion, is living life to the fullest. But what if this is just a rationalization created by us compulsive types in order to validate our tunnel vision way of living?
  Never follow anyone's ideology to the letter. Many people people are filled with sage advice on how to live, while their own lives slide into a state of entropy. Pick and choose your wisdom carefully. Living for something you perceive as being greater than yourself could just be a form of thinly veiled masochism.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

a year of silence


  Art is my heroin. It has emptied my pockets, induced me to break the law, and alienated those around me. I am ever willing to sacrifice anything for its narcotic effect.
  As the deleterious financial impact of my year in silence grows deeper and more friends discreetly pull back, i am left wondering where i will be six months from now. While i don't foresee myself running afoul of the law as i have on other projects, apparently just the act of being quiet can have a detrimental effect on one's every day life.

Monday, February 24, 2014

a year of silence


  I am sacrificing a lot more than my voice in order to follow through with my year of silence.
  I live in the basement of an apartment building that is somewhere between fifty and three thousand years old. Outdated wiring, cracked walls, unreliable heating and jurassic plumbing are just a few of its antiquated charms. Last night the kitchen sink backed up for the millionth time, with what appeared to be some other resident's bathwater.
  I could easily have called the emergency number provided on the lease for help. But since this was not an emergency situation that involved the safety of another living being, and i alone was being affected by this fountain of sewage, i didn't make the call.
 On my knees, rubber gloved, with rags in hand, i cleaned up the mess. Why is it that the things we most love and deeply believe in, inevitably bring us to our knees?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

a year of silence


  Some people i have come in contact with have assumed that i am on some kind of religious or spiritual quest. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have about as much spirituality as a styrofoam coffee cup.
  While many religious organizations are responsible for a large amount of charity work, i feel they are basically just businesses. They seem designed to perpetuate themselves and go to great lengths in order to ensure their individual survival. Some things done in the name of religion such as great Art, and the preservation of important texts during the middle ages, have been hugely beneficial to humankind. Other more malicious acts committed with religious fervor throughout history, seem almost misanthropic.
  I have read the Bible, the Qur'an, and many other religious writings. There is a lot of great wisdom in all of them. But the two main messages they all seem to have in common are: #1, Don't be a jerk. and #2, Appreciate everything.
  I don't think any organization or individual has a right, religious or political, to force their beliefs on anyone else. I truly believe in putting ideas and beliefs out there by themselves, and then walking away. If they have merit, they will survive. If they don't, then they'll fade away.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

a year of silence


  Should i expect people to take the extra time and effort needed to communicate with me? Absolutely not. This piece, and art in general, are my priorities. They are not necessarily anyone else's.
  No one in this world inherently owes us anything. If you ask someone a question, they are not required to answer. If you make a phone call or send a text, no one is obligated to reply. Response is a courtesy not a requirement. Many of us think that the simple act of asking a question (whether verbally or through an artwork) entitles us to a response.
  Feelings of entitlement are often misguided, and usually annoying.

Friday, February 21, 2014

a year of silence


  A few people seem very adept at reading my lips when i quietly mouth words. At this point, the numbers have evened out and the majority is neither male nor female. The only difference between these skilled lip readers and others, seems to be the willingness to confront me "face on".
  Looking someone directly in the face while conversing, makes it a much more intimate experience. This can make many of us feel uncomfortable. Very few people are inclined to hold your gaze when talking, even if it may be necessary in order to read your lips. To to avoid this discomfort, some try to avoid the experience altogether.
  Admittedly, my countenance is not the most pleasant view in the world, but i think a lot of people in general, prefer to maintain a "distance" from each other. When others ask how you are, they don't really want to know. We like to chat, but no one wants to take the time to talk. Many of us have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends on a social network site, but we don't know the people who live next door.
  In effect, we have placed the quantity of technological superficiality over the quality of personal engagement.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

a year of silence


  Convenient phone help lines on web sites, vending machines, and the like, are no longer an option for me. Now i have to try and solve problems via email, and that can become a very long process. So this requires me to actually go to businesses in an attempt to obtain more prompt service. In doing this, i have found that even when you are physically present at the counter of many commercial establishments, the phone is still given top priority and you are forced to wait.
  Long before i began my year of silence, phone communication had become more of a priority than physical presence. Many dates or outings with friends were constantly interrupted with incoming calls or surreptitious text messaging. Text messaging has now become far more prevalent than phone conversation.
  As technology allows us to easily connect with more and more people, are we actually steadily growing further apart? If someone is reduced to words on a screen, do they become less of a presence? Phone help lines are pretty much all computerized at this point, implying that you as a person are less important than a company's time and bottom line.
  Without text messaging and email, my means of communicating would be severely curtailed. Technology is a huge help to me in my quiet state. But at the same time, is it marginalizing us as physical human beings? Are we becoming more reticent to interact with each other on a physical and more personal level?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

a year of silence


  A friend of mine, who is a very skilled crafts-person, asked for my help with a project a couple of days ago. I have worked with him before, but this occasion proved to be much different.
  My being silent made the whole experience go much more smoothly, and greatly increased my enjoyment of it. We were on a time schedule, so plying him with obtuse, superfluous questions via written notes wasn't really an option. Any important information was duly provided by him in an efficient manner, as his instructions were able to flow uninterrupted.
  Even the ride to and from the job was more pleasant. We engaged in "conversation" and many opportunities arose for me to interject an opinion, but i chose to utilize few of them. Instead, i listened quietly and actually digested what he had to say.
  Being silent released me from the burden of having to formulate responses, and enabled me to reflect more deeply on someone else's thoughts and ideas. How refreshing it is to have an exchange with someone and hear more than my own voice.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

a year of silence


  I was behind a car at a stop light recently, when in spite of the signal turning green, the car in front of me remained stationary. Wishing to remain true to my vow of silence, i refrained from using my horn to get things moving. A little time passed and a driver behind me soon became nearly apoplectic, repeatedly sounding his horn, and yelling out his window. The driver in front of me proceeded to move, while simultaneously displaying his middle finger and yelling back at the angry person behind me. When the road eventually split into two lanes, the angry driver caught up to the finger waver and a heated exchange of expletives then ensued at every intersection for another mile or two.
   Apparently, from their quickly reached subjective viewpoints, the other person was perceived to be an inconsiderate jackwagon who needed his face caved in as a lesson in proper driving etiquette. But perhaps the reality of the situation was entirely different. Maybe the person behind me was late for work and his tyrannical boss was going to possibly fire him for it. Maybe the person in front of me was on the phone engrossed in getting directions to the hospital his wife was just checked into, and hadn't noticed the light changing. These explanations may be far fetched, but something like them may be responsible for these drivers' initial behavior at the light. Instead of retaining a little quiet composure and considering another person's context, these people went with a quick subjective judgment.
  I used to be a finger giving horn monger, and i know that this kind of behavior is counter productive and rarely makes you feel any better. You might think it's a great way to vent some frustration, but it only exacerbates it. It goes without saying, it has no positive teaching effect on the recipient. Negative reinforcement rarely works with human beings, especially in traffic. I am unaware of any driver who reached an epiphany and changed their evil ways after someone flipped them off on the road. It all seems to be just pointless noise.


  At the risk of becoming a wellspring of bad Chi, i'm afraid i have no appreciation for wind chimes. Listening to the sound of a breeze wafting through dry leaves or blowing hard enough to rattle the windows is one of my greatest pleasures in life. I find its tidal flow very soothing and am always in awe of its potential strength. Wind chimes seem to be an an unneeded frosting on an already perfect cake.
  The use of wind chimes dates back many centuries and countless people enjoy and revere their use. They hold an important place as a spiritual tool for many, and i intend no disrespect.
  Some people use them as a kind of white noise to block out more obtrusive sounds. I have always thought the idea of using noise to block out noise, to be an interesting paradox.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

a year of silence


  Many artworks have been misinterpreted by quick, subjective analysis. People breeze by paintings in a gallery, never stopping to fully engage any one piece. They form quick, superficial opinions based on their own ideologies, that are purely subjective and rarely accurate.
  I am experiencing similar circumstances as i continue with my experiment in silence. Only one person, out of the many i have encountered, has engaged me for any length of time to investigate the context of my endeavor. People have reacted with fear, anger, sympathy and apathy, but very little curiosity.
  This piece is not the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, so i can understand the general disinterest some might feel towards it. I am also very aware of the human tendency to feel sympathetic towards someone they think might have a physical impairment. But the reactions of fear and anger have me perplexed.


  I think the adage that we hate most what we fear most, is very applicable in assessing
some people's reactions to artwork. Some of the best Art in the world was made as a challenge to commonly held beliefs. When you challenge the beliefs that someone has clung to for a long time, it scares them. Many of us respond with a fight AND flight reaction. We lash out with statements like, "My kid could do that" or "He/she must be crazy". We then attempt to put as much distance between the offensive object/person and ourselves as possible.
  It is far easier to just react subjectively to something and run away from it, than it is to take a moment to interact with it and maybe learn something new. I think the language of Art is wonderfully complex and rewarding. It is definitely well worth the time to learn.
  However, we live in an age of instant gratification and simple entertainment. So much is out there that will safely confirm what we already believe and make us feel comfortably secure with what we already know. Studying something new and trying to unfold its meaning can be challenging and time consuming, subjective judgment is much more convenient.

Friday, February 14, 2014

a year of silence


  Art is a reflection of the social, political and historical context in which it was made. (*thank you, professor C.!) Every human being on this planet is an embodiment of the social, political and historical context in which they live. None of us is unique, special or wonderful, no matter what your parents may have told you.
  An artist is no more important than the paint, clay, ink or film she or he uses. He or she is just a funnel through which an idea (a reflection on their context) flows through. After the artwork is completed, the artist's usefulness has ended. Artistic intent means nothing. If the work is done well, it far surpasses any original intent by the artist. It is autonomous, didactic and sublime. Great Art is the closest thing to perfection human beings can ever hope to glimpse.
  Bearing that in mind, it is important that i make something clear. Despite what i may have previously implied, i am not the actual artwork in this project. My ongoing silence is. I am just a funnel for this idea to flow through and take shape.


  Appreciating and analyzing artwork is an objective, NOT a subjective experience.
  One of the many things great Art can teach us, is the lesson of objectivity. You cannot look at an artwork subjectively and ever hope to reach its core truth(s). It is important to set aside all ideologies and opinions in order to become a "blank slate", so the artwork can take hold. You need an open mind. Sex, politics, religion......everything is up for grabs. You will never be able to learn anything of value if your mind is caged by some obtuse, archaic, "rule book".
  This one facet, like many of the important things Art can teach us, should be carried over into our every day lives. Have an open mind and be objective about everything. When you put away antiquated belief systems and take a chance, you can learn some fantastic things.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

a year of silence


  Just because i think or believe something doesn't make it so. In my own mind, i'm an artist who explores the world, trying to convey my observations through various media. From many other people's viewpoints, i'm some weird doorknob who needs to cease this nonsense and resume talking immediately (preferably at the next available job interview).
  My rather tenuous means of income has already suffered a bit because of this experiment in silence. I have also lost contact with a few people i thought i was close with.... and it's only been about a month since i started. I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with the face to face intimacy that is required when conversing with me one on one. But a lot of these friends have discontinued text communication as well.
  As might be surmised, i am not a "people person" in any sense of the word. Having the interpersonal skills of an irritated porcupine coupled with an obsessive devotion to Art, does not make for a large circle of friends. Maybe this latest project was the "last straw" for a few of them.
  Nothing is entirely anything. Simply put, i think it was a combination of factors that caused these friends to fall by the wayside. Often, many of us feel that convenience is an important aspect in any  relationship. We don't date people who live too far away, and we don't stay in touch with people who make communicating more difficult.
  I do not take stated or inferred criticism lightly. I strive to see myself and the world with complete objectivity. Therefore, i am left wondering how desirable a friend could i have been in the first place, to have been so readily dismissed.
  I am not harming anyone with my silence (except maybe myself), so it will continue
uninterrupted. Truth can be an unpleasant thing, so many of us go to great lengths to avoid confronting it. But all quality Art contains some truth that cannot be ignored.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

a year of silence

  If i came with subtitles this would be a lot easier.
  Many people do not want to take the time and effort necessary to engage in "conversation" with someone who does not speak. When i run into acquaintances who were formally quite chatty, i now just receive a silent wave or a cursory hello before they move on. Often, before i've quietly mouthed three words, people become exasperated and exclaim that they can't read lips. If i try to communicate by writing things down, they quickly become impatient at the extra drain on their time.
  People have busy lives and anything that might involve sacrificing a little bit more time has to be very important to them. Many of us will not go to a movie if it involves reading subtitles, forget about taking the time to indulge an artist who refuses to speak.
  The most important thing any of us possess is not our home or our car. It is our time. Yet we seem so ready to barter it away for things that we don't really need and that have no lasting value. We work at jobs we despise for 40, 50 or 60 hours a week, so we can make the payments on all our stuff. Many of us eagerly watch the clock, actually wanting the time to pass more swiftly in between ephemeral moments of fun. We will wait in line for hours to get into a nightspot for 40 minutes. Rushing from activity to activity, the time spent in between is considered a waste and treated like empty space.
  I do not like the passing of time. Time is only a friend to the grief stricken and brokenhearted. Otherwise, it is a cheat and a swindler. I love to look at the clock and see that it is earlier than i thought. Yet, i refuse to wear the cold face on my wrist... constantly reminding me of my mortality, its hands flailing away on my life. We think we have all the time in the world, while in truth we have very little.
  I think it's important to make priorities in order to best utilize our precious time. I try to take every moment possible and smell, see, feel and taste it. I will turn moments in my hand to examine every facet, and i loathe to let them go. So, i completely understand if someone doesn't want to take the time to try and communicate with me. Their priorities are probably very different than mine.

Monday, February 10, 2014

a year of silence


  I have encountered my first (and certainly not my last) major financial expense because of my silence. I was forced to cancel some flight reservations i had made on a popular travel web site prior to my going silent. An emergency had occurred, making it impossible for me to make the trip.
  Usually, when this kind of situation arises you are given a credit (after various penalty fees are deducted) towards rescheduled travel on the airline you had originally booked. But apparently, you MUST reschedule by phone in order to use this money. I was informed that there is absolutely no other way to utilize this credit. You have one year from the date of the original booking to do this transaction.
  Since i will not use my voice, this money appears to be forfeit. I could easily ask a friend to call for me and handle the rescheduling of my travel arrangements, but that would negate the purpose of my silence project. Having someone speak for you is the same as speaking yourself "noise-wise", so it is not an option as far as i'm concerned.
  I feel sorry for people who are physically unable to speak in this kind of circumstance. I wonder what other situations will arise in which making noise is a requirement, not an option?


  While i do not want this blog to be a tedious accounting of my day to day activities, something has just occurred which relates to yesterday's entry. I have encountered another "bump" on my quiet road.
  I was leaving an establishment and someone in front of me courteously held the door open for me. My usual response to a kindness such as this, is to smile and quietly mouth the words, "thank you". But in this instance, the person's back was to me and they were unaware of my efforts. The outcome of this arrangement was the person muttering in an angry voice, "you're welcome!",  as they strode away in front of me.
  I value and employ good manners in all aspects of my life. I think good manners are an important part of making everyday life more pleasant for everyone. It disturbs me that due to my insistence on remaining silent, this person may hesitate to hold the door for someone else in the future. In this instance, my silence may have effected the world in a negative, rather than positive way.
  It wasn't the person who held the door's fault, but i find myself wishing they had just looked at me and thereby become more aware of the context of the situation.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

a year of silence


  To communicate with others is commonly regarded as "sharing". To cease speaking can be interpreted as no longer having a desire to share. Becoming antisocial is not an intended component of this project.
  As mentioned earlier, i have found that just soundlessly mouthing words can be a very effective way of communicating. Interestingly, i have discovered that far more females than males are readily adept at reading my lips. The numbers in this comparison are so disparate that it can't just be attributed to chance.
  I do not believe in assigning characteristics to human beings based on their gender, so this phenomenon puzzles me. I am going to continue this comparison as the year continues and try to formulate some kind of explanation.


  I have had two encounters with hearing impaired people since i began this piece. I did not speak at either meeting, yet neither of these people assumed i was hearing impaired. Both communicated with me vocally, in a regular, unaltered fashion.
  Conversely, nearly everyone i have come across who does not appear to have any difficulty hearing, instantly assumes that i do. Many of these people will subsequently raise their voices and enunciate more emphatically. When i assure them, by means of gesturing, that i can hear them perfectly well, they will often begin to whisper. What a wonderful, unexpected phenomena! My silence has somehow inadvertently caused others to be (momentarily) more quiet!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

a year of silence


  "You think to much."
  "He was quiet and kept to himself."
  "Silence is a waste."

  The first two quotes have almost become cliche's. The third is from a doctor when she misread a tattoo i have (it actually says, "silence is wisdom" in Latin). She felt her misinterpretation was a more accurate assessment on the nature of silence.
  Silence is generally held in contempt by a large segment of society. If you are quiet in a group setting, you are boring. If you're quiet by nature, you are weird and regarded with suspicion. All truly fun things seem to involve a lot of boisterous noise. All the more mundane things in life appear to involve quiet thought.
  Why is quiet reflection so vilified in our modern world? Is slowing down to pause for a moment and actually think, such a terrible thing? Being quiet doesn't lead to serial killing. Desensitization to violence, a stunted sense of empathy and a bizarre desire for recognition, are far more likely steps to the mental imbalance that would lead someone to kill. Is talking about the activities of a popular celebrity over blaring music at a party, more interesting than a group discussion about the art of acting in a quiet park (if you can find one)? Maybe it is.....Maybe "blowing off steam" by being as loud as possible is healthy and fun......
  Making "noise" can be a necessary and desirable thing. Speaking up at a town meeting over an important issue, laughing out loud, and playing the piano at a concert, are just a few instances where sound can be truly great. But sound and noise can be two very different things. Deciding which is which can be a matter of opinion and open to debate.
  In my experience, a lot of people prefer noise, any noise, over silence.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

a year of silence


  Before beginning  this piece, i would frequently talk to myself. I am someone who is alone often, but rarely lonely, so i don't think my "self conversations" evolved from a sense of isolation. Rather, they were a way for me to organize my thoughts. My head was so busy that i had to voice thoughts in order to sift them from the clutter.
  Having a lot going on in your brain doesn't necessarily make you a smart person. On the contrary, i think a good part of intelligence is just being able to achieve a singular clarity of thought. My mind is noisy with petty problems, ruminations over occurrences long past, and the experiencing of (and desire for) sensations.
  I think many of us live for excitement. It doesn't matter if it's putting up decorations in the anticipation of yet another holiday or raptly watching some gruesome catastrophe on the evening news, we crave sensation. Sex, drugs, power, status and buying stuff, can become lifelong, all encompassing pursuits. An entire lifetime can be lived episodically, just going from one sensation to the next. It is very easy to avoid thinking or reflecting entirely.
  If you turn down the volume in your head you are opening the door to more reflection. Vapid songs no longer repeat endlessly in your mind, so it is no longer necessary for you to voice your thoughts out loud in order to organize them. But is a lot of quiet reflection a desirable thing?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

a year of silence


  All previously made obligations that entailed the use of my voice have been completed. I can now begin my endeavor in earnest.
  During my brief hiatus away from writing about this piece, i have only spoken while training the aforementioned couple. Having not spoken otherwise, silence has become my norm. I enjoy it, and my voice has become harsh and unpleasant to me. When i briefly spoke, it was as if i was listening to a recording of myself. The sound was grating and somehow, foreign.
  It is with new resolve that i continue my project. I cannot allow anything or anyone to hinder its progress. In this first stage, i have already become acutely aware of all noise. Most of all, my own.