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April 26, 2014

Josh Drespling: I’m learning the sound of silence truly is golden

NEW CASTLE — Silence.

Lean back, if only for a moment, and indulge in a muted existence. Turn off the music or TV. Set down your phone, dive deep in, and enjoy the silence. Close your eyes and sense the world around you.

Over the past several weeks I have been exploring the power of silence. This adventure has partially been spurred by my reading of the book, “The Wisdom of the Native American.” It is a collection of talks and speeches by Native American leaders, particularly those of the Lokota people. The Lakota (also known as Teton or Titunwan) were part of the seven council fires of the illustrious Sioux Nation.

These simple, yet enlightened men, understood what we in our efforts to achieve advancement, higher learning, and supremacy have forgotten or, quite frankly, forsaken. They knew and lived by the knowledge that silence was often more powerful than words.

Often times these people were judged by our Anglo ascendants to be stoic, indifferent, and even dumb. However, these judgments could not be any farther from the truth. These men were exercising the discipline and manners that they were raised to have. They were taught from a tender age that silence is the mother of truth and that the silent man is to be trusted. They were brought up knowing also that a man ever ready with speech is never to be taken seriously (think fast-talking salesman).

Silence before speaking is expected and encouraged in the Native culture. One is expected to carefully arrange his thoughts before speaking and to speak over someone or without direct intent is considered disrespectful. The Lakota taught that it does not take many words to speak the truth and that language can be smooth and deceptive. It can make wrong seem right and right appear to be wrong.

Silence itself is peculiar. In the midst of misfortune, sickness, death, or sorrow of any kind it is a mark of respect. Likewise, in the presence of the notable and great, silence is symbol of honor. Silence, in its simplicity, possesses an uncanny ability to produce awkwardness and reverence in equal portions. Try just stopping a conversation mid-sentence and watch as the other participants squirm in their seats as they reach for the next syllable to interject. The pause and emptiness can build tension and discord. Some of the most intense and compelling scenes in film use the dramatic pause, and the longer the pause, the more the tension builds.

I will say that my experiment with silence has led me to a greater appreciation of the minute, yet magical, things of our Mother Earth. Much like my Native ancestors who sat on the earth, listening and absorbing its infinite knowledge, I long for those summer days where I can sit silently and stare at the clouds and ingest the sounds of nature in its pristine state.

Unhampered and undisturbed by our human intervention in the state that the Great Creator intended it to be.

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