Saturday, April 26, 2014

a year of silence


  Freedom is lost through addition and gained by subtraction.
  In my silence, i no longer have to politely agree, talk about the weather, voice my opinion, demonstrate my know-how, provide an explanation, worry if i said the right thing, worry if i said the wrong thing, or have the burden of someone recognizing my voice.

Friday, April 25, 2014

a year of silence


  I used to have a professor who after making a contentious point, would pause a moment and wait for any rebuttal from the students attending his lecture. If no one spoke up, he would always say, "Silence is affirmation."
  He was a brilliant instructor and i think many of his students were in awe of him, and maybe a little intimidated as well. Those might have been the more likely reasons behind the silence, rather than absolute agreement to every idea he put forth.
  Silence isn't affirmation. It isn't withdrawal, anger, stupidity, death, or anything else for that matter. Silence isn't anything. It is the absence of something, and nothing more. Silence is subtraction in a society that emphasizes addition, and therefore is constantly misunderstood.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

a year of silence


  I am not a moaner or a groaner at the gym, but i am a bit of a gasper.
  While some people sound like they're filming an x rated movie when they work out, i tend to sound more like a loudly leaking tire. But since going silent, my breathing has gone from a gale force wind to a quieter, Darth Vaderesque pant.


  You may be trying to get across the most simple of ideas, yet your innocent pupil remains dumbfounded. You make repeated attempts, each successively louder and more impatient than the last. Finally, in angry frustration you scream at the futility of trying to teach to the hopelessly stupid.
  But don't give up! They will eventually learn! stay as far away from you as possible.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

a year of silence


  Whenever i visit the local Art museum, i inevitably am given an impromptu honor guard accompaniment. It might be my appearance, my silence, or my suspicious habit of lingering over a single piece for more than 2 minutes, that accords me this accolade. Ironically, i'm the last person on earth who would do harm to any Artwork, but there never seems to be more than 6 feet between myself and at least one security person during every visit.
  I wouldn't mind all this flattering attention, except that the security guards always seem to be the noisiest people in the gallery. They chat amongst themselves about ball games and dinner plans as they watch the suspiciously quiet, yet overly enthusiastic patron planted in front of the Jackson Pollock. I recently had one guard literally do laps around me and a Vincent Van Gogh, in his squeaky shoes, nonstop, for over half an hour.
  Perhaps one of the prerequisites for becoming an Art museum security guard is a complete lack of appreciation for fine Art. After all, you don't want your staff staring at the Artwork all day. You want their undivided attention on the weirdo who's been standing in front of the Dali for (heavens to betsy) over an hour.
  I realize it is important that great Art be protected, but it also is meant to be thoroughly explored and savored, so ear plugs and patience have become essential items for a happy museum experience.

Monday, April 21, 2014

a year of silence


  I was recently over a friend's house for dinner. As is her family's custom, a moment of silent prayer was observed before the meal. After the obligatory silence her young son, who was seated to my right, turned to me and said, "You breathe really loud."
  He was gently chastised by his mother for making the observation. But he was right, i do breathe really loud...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

a year of silence


  I thought that at this point in my year of silence, i would be dying to talk again. I assumed i would have so much to say, that the tension of restraint would have been steadily building as the months passed. But just the opposite is true.
  My silence has been a great blanket of snow that fell over night. Many people see it as an inconvenience that slows down the commute, but i love snow. It covers the broken branches, dead leaves and bits of trash from previous days. It muffles noise and makes everything coldly, quietly, beautiful.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

a year of silence


  I speak nearly every night in my dreams. Speaking has become a mechanism by which i recognize that i am indeed dreaming and that i am asleep.
  It is not part of any deep desire on my part to start talking again, no such desire exists. I think it's similar to those dreams where i find myself out in public completely naked. At first i'm embarrassed and self conscious, then part of me that realizes that everything isn't "right", that it's absurd. When i start to really think about it, it causes me to wake up. With a great sense of relief, i reassure myself that it never really happened.

Friday, April 18, 2014

a year of silence


  Side Effect #2-
I can no longer buy ANYTHING unless i can eat it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

a year of silence


  One side effect of my year in silence is that i'm riding my bicycle a lot more. This was initially done out of economic necessity rather than as an effort to make my day to day transportation more quiet.
  When you attempt to make art, unexpected things often happen. Sometimes bad things, like financial obliteration or unwanted police presence. Sometimes good things, like a kind review or a life altering discovery.
  I didn't realize how noisy the world was until i started to be quiet. I didn't realize how much i hated driving a car until i started riding my bicycle.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

a year of silence


  My birthday was yesterday. After we're born it takes a couple years before we start talking. It's usually about 80 years before we finally shut up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

a year of silence


  Sometimes an intimate discussion amongst a small group of friends can take on a frenetic pace all it's own. Like an errant passenger bus that suddenly takes a different route. Ignoring the usual stops, in search of a new destination, the conversation rolls faster and faster. To interrupt the pace by ponderously mouthing ideas or by attempting to feverishly write responses, would be asking the bus to pull over so you can kick the tires.
  So i settle for looking out my window, watching as each tantalizing context flies by.

Monday, April 14, 2014

a year of silence


  The last thing i want to know is how other people feel about me. But when you don't speak, many people assume you don't hear. So when your back is turned (literally) they freely vocalize their opinions on your hair, age, personality and rear end.
  So far i haven't heard much that has inspired me to make any personal alterations. I'm not going to cut my hair, i can't lower my age, i will not enroll in charm school, and i despise the stair stepper.
  I am comforted by the fact that so far, no one has said i talk too much.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

a year of silence


  Being silent in social situations such as crowded bars or parties, has resulted in a pretty predictable pattern of behavior from the people i encounter.
  I am treated much like an initially interesting item on the buffet table. At first, i am given a quick visual appraisal to ascertain whether i am worth trying or not. Then comes the cautious approach, followed by the tentative sample to see if i'm pleasing to the taste. When i am subsequently judged to be too bland, salty, cold or beyond my freshness date, i am abandoned for another dish with a little more spice.
  So, all in all, pretty much nothing has changed from before i went silent...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

a year of silence


  My ongoing silence has given an almost surreal quality to daily life. Sometimes it feels like a giant picture book is being held up directly in front of me. There are moments when i'm just about to glimpse around the edge, but then the book is thrust back into my face again.

Friday, April 11, 2014

a year of silence


  The clamor of leaf blowers provides the horn section in a noisy fanfare to the arrival of spring.
  The use of these excruciating devices is a prime example in the art of intentional suburban futility. More than once, i have observed someone diligently blasting leaves and grass clippings from a well tended lawn onto an adjacent street. Within days (sometimes hours) the offending compost has blown back onto the grass of its original home or that of a neighboring house, where it is eventually loudly expelled back into the street yet again.
  This ritual will be repeated ad nauseam until the first snow momentarily quells the absurd cycle.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

a year of silence


  After reading the previous entries concerning my trip to New York, it my seem as if i'm experiencing paradise-itis. A condition whereupon a vacation spot takes on a utopian quality in the tourist's mind. Rest assured, i did not fall prey to this subjective delusion. New York City, like any other place, has redeeming qualities as well as deleterious ones. It is just up to the individual to choose which aspects to dwell on.
  But i can say unequivocally, that in my case, wandering the streets of Manhattan while peering out from my glass jar with the loose lid, proved much more enjoyable than striding around in a suit of armor with a bull horn pressed to my lips.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

a year of silence


New York Cont.

  It was around lunch time and the Museum of Modern Art gift shop was busy and loud. The salesperson behind the counter looked like she'd had more than enough busy and loud for one day.
  I had resigned myself to the fact that prints of a painting i loved were out of stock and waited in line clutching a couple of postcards. When it was finally my turn, i approached her and placed my cards on the counter. She barely cracked a smile and murmured a perfunctory hello. When i let her know that i could hear but didn't speak, i could almost swear she looked relieved.
  In a last ditch effort to locate the elusive print, i looked imploringly into her face and soundlessly mouthed the title of the painting asking where a print could be found. It was a french title, but the salesperson instantly understood the painting i was referring to. She nodded quietly to me and a small smile cracked the left side of her face. She made a gesture for me to follow her and suddenly dashed from behind the counter. We then quietly weaved through the crowded store together, neither of us uttering a sound. It was as if we were small fish darting under water as a storm raged on the surface. It wasn't long before she triumphantly pulled a print of the painting i was searching for out of an anonymous bin. I was obviously ecstatic, and i could almost swear my silent partner looked as happy as i was.
  We stealthily made our way back to the checkout counter where my salesperson rang up the purchases. I silently thanked her profusely. She soundlessly mouthed back, "My pleasure.", giving me a small goodbye wave. As i turned around and started to make my way out, another customer approached her counter and loudly exclaimed, "It's a real mad house in here today!".

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

a year of silence

New York Cont.

  I didn't yell. I didn't even hold my arm up. All i did was nod my head and he pulled that cab over to the curb as if i'd been waving a stack of hundreds. I instantly admired him. I find people that are extremely good at what they do to be fascinating. He was talking at 800 miles per hour before i even got in the car.
  The cabbie had asked me 3 times where i wanted to go before he realized i wasn't talking. A brief look of consternation passed over his face until i held up my note pad with the word "Guggenheim" scrawled on it. He gave me a thumbs up and shot into traffic.
  "Do you speak english ?", he asked looking in the rear view mirror. I gave him my standard, i don't speak but i can hear gestures, and received another thumbs up.
  His banter decreased in pace and volume with every stop light. Traffic was slow and long before we reached the museum he petered out completely, leaving us both in silence for a good portion of the trip.
  I don't know what exactly happened, but he accidentally brought me to the Metropolitan Museum instead of the Guggenheim. I didn't gesture or say anything as the cab driver, realizing his mistake, began to chuckle to himself. He then shut off the meter and maneuvered us back towards the Guggenheim.
  When we arrived i paid him, and smiling, he gave me a quiet thumbs up. He then reached through the separation between us, to shake my hand before i got out.

Monday, April 7, 2014

a year of silence


  New York, 4/2 - 4/6

  "A fool is only a fool until he realizes what he is."
  Apparently, i have yet to fully engage my "blank slate" approach to life. I subjectively assumed N.Y. would be hectic and noisy, the people too rushed to indulge someone without a voice. I expected to be pushed to the side and ignored by its busy populace. I have been to New York many times before i became silent, and these hastily drawn assumptions were based on those previous experiences.
  Manhattan is indeed busy, and its mechanizations grind and howl almost nonstop. But there were palpable lulls in the buzz saw hum, that were so much more prominent because of it.
  Almost every person i came into contact with was helpful, friendly and consciously chose to join me in silence, for however brief an instant. From the subdued cab driver who insisted on shaking my hand as i departed his vehicle, to the sales person at the MOMA gift shop who quietly walked away from the busy checkout throng to personally find a print of one of Picasso's Masterpieces for me. These, and many other kindnesses, were almost always performed in reciprocal, smiling, silence.
  Without my braying voice and tangled, clamorous preconceptions, New York became a wonderful and "peaceful" place. Noise perpetuates noise, and silence perpetuates silence.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

a year of silence


  I am leaving for New York City early tomorrow morning. I couldn't ask for a better experiment in contrasts.