Mind the Gap

Joe —  Fri 29-Jan-10 — 8 Comments
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“Music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence, and silence is full of music.” – Marcel Marceau

Being very new to this writing world, one in which I have very little skill but a great eagerness to learn, I am amazed at some early discoveries. My favorite is learning how many words need to be written to find the right ones. I would guess that I probably cut out 4-5 words for every word I include. This past sentence alone was originally a whole paragraph.

The main reason so much material gets cut is that it takes the place of the reader and doesn’t allow them to become part of the conversation. In other words I fill in gaps with personal stories, examples or observations that would best be left for the reader to imagine. By not filling in the space I allow someone else to fill their mind with their experiences and thoughts. I allow them to make a connection.

Music staff.pngWhen I thought about this it dawned on me that this was something my high school band teacher taught me 30 years ago.

“Beginning musicians concern themselves with playing the notes – the better ones with playing the rests.”

I don’t know whether it is our own insecurities or a world gone ADHD mad that cause us to be so uncomfortable with silence, the musical rests inserted into our lives, but it is quite prevalent. I am probably one of the worst offenders. Why do we have a need to fill in all the blanks? Every time we do that we take away an opportunity for someone else to contribute or to just soak up the last thing that was said.

I was visiting one of my dearest friends at his home. He was recovering from a long hospital stay. We talked for a while (and we both can talk for hours on end), then something magical happened…

Nothing.

We just sat there not feeling any obligation to fill in the soundtrack. It was an amazing moment for me. You know you have a great friend when you can both just sit there and say nothing and be completely satisfied. It is only now that I realize that is how much of my life is spent with my best friend, my wife Beth – just sitting together basking in each other’s silence.

I wish I were wise enough to have really understood what Mr. Wiegel taught me back in high school band.

Today’s Question
Do you find in your practice that silence says more than words? If so, do you purposefully use silence as a tool to promote communications?

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Joe

Posts

  • http://www.andrewfuqua.com Andrew Fuqua

    Silence works wonders for eliciting a response and for drawing out even the most reserved. Most people can’t stand the silence and will fill it in. I use this in all my roles: as a parent, a Sunday School teacher and leader of other volunteers, a manager, a consultant.

    • http://www.TheStrandedStarfish.com joe

      Now that I think back on when we worked together that is true. Interestingly enough I don’t recall thinking that was what was happening, but in hindsight that’s what it was.

      Do you find a lot of value in the things that people say when they fill in the silence?

      • http://www.andrewfuqua.com Andrew Fuqua

        Absolutely! People are guarded, at least those in my circle are — those who are technically inclined. They hold back. We are on whatever topic we’re on because it’s an interesting topic, at least to me. So when they break the silence, it’s most often heart-felt, honest, and on-topic.

        As a bonus, my cohorts aren’t good at changing the topic. Most have never thought of this. They aren’t introspective enough to spot this tactic or their response to it.

  • Mark Wallis

    Silence is powerful. And not just the outer silence in conversation but the inner silence as well. If you can quiet the internal monologue, it creates a space for new awareness to manifest. I get some of my best insights when I experience a quiet mind.

    • http://www.TheStrandedStarfish.com joe

      Mark – do you have any special techniques that work well for that you can share on how you quiet your mind?

      • Mark Wallis

        Not any specific technique Joe. I just try to recognize it and nurture it when it happens. Often it is in the shower because I’m just waking up and on autopilot.

        Barbara meditates daily and I think that’s the best way to get to the silence.

  • Pat Becker

    It is quite telling that we talk of quieting the mind; As if it is a separate vessel and not organically connected with the physical body.

    That separation or lack of signifies the split between Eastern and Western thought. Mind-Body connection is cutting edge research here. Look at all the work U. Wisconsin-Madison has done H.H. Dalai Lama.

    As one of the comments referred to often finding that quiet space when they were on autopilot, I would affirm that is on the right track. I would also say that even if you don’t formally meditate every day you can turn your day into a more meditative experience.

    The key is that finding quiet is an acquired skill and like all skills needs to be practiced often for it to become natural.

  • Alex

    I am perfectly aware of and agree with the concept that you are talking about, especially as a musician. As a musician I make a conscious attempt to use spaces in music.

    However, in writing and speaking I find this extraordinarily difficult. I don’t know exactly why. It’s to the point where I am KNOWN for it.

    I guess I feel like I’m not good enough at getting my EXACT point across without reiterating it from every angle. It’s not that I don’t trust the reader to get what I am saying, its that I don’t trust myself enough to convey it properly and succinctly.

    ADHD? Maybe. IDK. I have more to write and examples to give, but for once, I think I already made my point pretty well. :-)

    Help! 😀