Seeking Refuge In Silence

Nearly every day at work there is some kind of question directed to me that goes something like, “Nathan, can you hear the walkie talkie?” or “Is the walkie talkie on?”  And every day my reply is the same, a polite and dignified but rather pointed silence.  I have explained that I dislike the idiocy that goes on on the walkie talkie and dislike the avoidance of more textual replies that some people engage in, and so I refrain from going on a medium that would assault yet another sense with what I find irritating and inane.  In order to protect myself from that which I find bothersome, I simply close off that aspect of communication.  I would like to think that if the conversation was more edifying or enjoyable, that there would be no difficulty in using that method, seeing as I enjoy conversation as much as the next person, if not more.  And yet every day the question is asked, likely because others simply do not understand my firmness about wishing to avoid methods of communication I find irksome and irritating.  I suppose at times that my firmness is too polite and too discreet and too subtle to draw attention from those who are used to my generally outgoing and somewhat bubbly communication, and others simply do not fathom why someone who dwells so often on the issue of communication would wish in some situations and cases for silence [1].

Although from time to time I engage in what I consider to be fairly elevated and philosophical discussions on politics, I find it troubling how often friends of mine post political material that I find deeply irritating.  There are some friends I have, even among those I know personally, who any time a political post shows up on their social media, will be something offensive to me and my worldview.  Rather than start a fruitless and unproductive flame war, as I might have done earlier, my response is to look up the fake news site for their unpleasant media and to make it disappear from my news feed in the future, so that I do not have to be bothered by that which I dislike.  For whatever reason my patience for dealing with people who do not wish to listen to me at all is not very great.  It is one of the reasons why I spend so little time in my own room, because I don’t like being around those who waste my time and drone on about the same things over and over again and have little interest in listening to me or what I have to say.  When I do not have the chance to avoid those whose lack of interest in me except as an audience for their own soapbox moralizing and repetitious ranting, my general response is a polite silence and a firm desire to minimize such opportunities in the future, whether in person or on social media.

I know I am not the only person who seeks a refuge in silence.  We live in a world where there are massive areas of silence and echo chambers where people who have immensely different worldviews find it difficult to engage in anything beyond polite and shallow platitudes if they even know anyone who thinks differently than they do at all.  If we wish to avoid silence and violence, we have to have respect for other people and a sincere desire to see them as they are and understand why it is they think and feel and behave as they do.  That desire is lacking in the world around us, and alarmingly often I find it lacking in myself.  To be sure the standard of public speech around us is not particularly good, although this is not a problem of our times alone.  Throughout history there has been a large number of partisan speech where what we thought and believed depended on the news sources we had available, and where questions of politics and religion and philosophy were discussed in a heated way that showed no respect and regard for others.  Our contemporary situation is nothing new, but it does leave silence between those who cannot bridge the gulf of misunderstanding and miscommunication that lies between them, even if there was a wish to do so.

Nor is this gap only due to political matters.  Even in our personal lives we have a frequent search for refuge in silence.  How much time goes by where we do not talk with our spouses, our parents or children, our siblings, our friends, our roommates?  I know I am certainly a person with whom there are plenty of people I would enjoy talking to with whom I am frequently silent.  And these are people I would like to talk to, with whom I have no problems and no beef, simply a lack of time and a lack of occasions where people are brought to my mind when I am and they are ready and able to communicate.  It is moments like these that make me wish I was a better person at writing letters to others, since I tend to be far more comfortable dealing with emotionally charged communication in writing than in face to face interaction, nor am I someone who greatly enjoys long phone conversations as much as I probably should.

What are we to do in general though?  How often do we engage in behavior that makes others wish to seek refuge in silence?  It is one thing to know that we want to talk with certain people who make it abundantly clear they do not wish to speak with us unless they are trapped and have no choice, and it is one thing to know that we feel trapped when we wish to talk with other people.  The fact that we all feel anxiety and distress with regards to communication does not build a bridge with others who we would wish to communicate with us or those who would wish us to communicate with them.  We are alone in our feelings, even if they happen to be the same feelings.  We may all feel frustrated about the aggressive and uncomfortable way others present their worldviews and perspectives and we ourselves may present our worldviews in ways that are equally awkward and uncomfortable to others.  And yet even if that makes us the same sort of people, it does not make us get along any greater nor does it make us act in ways that are more considerate to others, or encourage others to be more considerate to us.  We seek refuge in silence alone, or with a few friends who understand, or with those who more or less agree with us, and have little time or patience for anyone else.  And so the world hurts in an angry and sullen silence, and there is no one to bind up the wounds or allow us to reach beyond our fortresses of solitude in which we have barricaded ourselves to shut out the unpleasant noise of the hostile world outside.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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