Sitting in a movie theater, you may have noticed a sign flashing on the screen, “Silence is Golden.” This is merely a polite warning to turn off cell phones and silence chatter so that others around you can enjoy the show. However, the quote is an abbreviated version of a longer proverb, “Speech is silver and silence is golden,” which is believed to have originated in Ancient Egypt. In 1831, the proverb was first printed and explained in English by the poet Thomas Carlyle. He states, “Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule.”
Through these beautiful words, we see and feel the majesty of silence. We sit in silent anticipation for Nature’s great bounty and wondrous displays, such as the Northern Lights, a sky full of shooting stars, or the unfurling of a butterfly’s wings. As we taken in these magnificent sights, we realize that words are not necessary–and will never be sufficient–to explain the marvel in front of our eyes. Silence truly is golden.
Science is catching on to what we know innately–silence is not empty. There is so much to be learned and gleaned in silence, whether through meditation, quiet reflection, or honest observation. Recent studies have shown that silence does more than promote calm, it actually regenerates brain cells.
But so much of our lives is not silent. Between honking cars and buses in the city to ringing cell phones, our lives–and brains–are bombarded by noise. We seem to thrive on lively activity as if our lives depend on it. Noise tells us that we are making money, staying “connected” and meeting deadlines. But on the flip side, many of us long for that special time of day (or night) when we can sit silently without noise or distraction. Sometimes we wait for weeks, even months, before finding true silence. Until we find it, we revel in Nature’s music–waves crashing on the shoreline, grasses rustling on the banks of a river or birds chirping sweet songs in our windows. Through this “noise” we find our inner solitude.
We learn patience and release stress. We breathe in and out as the tides flow, washing ourselves clean of anxieties that overwhelm us. And when all of Nature’s noises stop and we sit in utter silence, we learn to delve inward. We hear our own heartbeat, become more aware of our breath sounds, and notice our place in this wondrous world. We realize–above all–that we are not alone in this noisy, bustling–and at the same time, eerily quiet world. Instead, we see that we are connected to Nature at its core, and that whatever happens within it happens within us as well.
Interested? Read more! Learn how to Unplug and Turn Inward with TCM.