The Generosity of Silence

My favorite travel writer and essayist of the soul, Pico Iyer, once said,
“There is, of course, a place for noise, as there is for daily lives… Silence, like all the best things, is best appreciated in its absence: if noise is the signature tune of the world, silence is the music of the other world, the closest thing we know to the harmony of the spheres. But the greatest charm of noise is when it ceases. In silence, suddenly, it seems as if all the windows of the world are thrown open and everything is as clear as on a morning after rain. Silence, ideally, hums. It charges the air…

Silence, then, could be said to be the ultimate province of trust: it is the place where we trust ourselves to be alone; where we trust others to understand the things we do not say; where we trust a higher harmony to assert itself…”

In hiking the slippery, snowy edges of Bryce Canyon, sliding down into the swirling, swallowing depths of Antelope Canyon, and inhaling in the ethereal dust of the Grand Canyon, the dust of a green-screen landscape, so ancient and so vast that my mind still reels at the reality of its reality, its existence— I experienced speechlessness.

It was in moments of falling back, falling behind, apart from the pack, that I heard, yes, heard silence. The sweet, numbing, unfamiliar lack of noise and grand foreign fullness of nothing. Looking out onto the creamy reds layered with humble violets and kind greys in rock cut by rains of age, molded by carefully careless winds, “It’s all okay,” the voids whispered. Just as the layers of sand and stone were laid into the earth by serendipitous placement and pressed into purpose by time, I, of flesh and bone, of restless thoughts and constant seeking, might be okay.

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We were discovering the tendons of the earth, especially in the curves of Antelope— the muscles carved by soft water and rain, flexed and exercised by passing time and whirling winds. Humbling. Under the cracked, dry rocks, we climbed deep and looked up to see the majesty above… yet, when you shine a light on the rocks and look close, they illuminate like mounds of compacted glitter.

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We are tiny and constantly striving to be excellent in a world that is anything but. Yet, the earth echoes excellence, in its limbs and organs, in every breath of it. Peering into the expanse of something so endless and incomprehensible to the mind, speechless, I was. And so taken care of, I felt.

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I’m not an advocate of escapism or running away from the daily going-ons of human existence, but I am learning the art of generosity and balance. As many battles as you fight and visions you chase, your being deserves and craves to feel small and uncontrollable in the face of something immovable and excellent in nature.

Draw close to the hum of silence.
Or go, and experience a creation so grand,
no sound could be uttered in the presence of it.

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