Even love is not possible without meaningful silences, and I would go so far as to say that, without silence, there is no freedom.The composer John Cage was in search of silence when he entered an anechoic chamber at Harvard University in 1951.Cage thought that , that state of being which is the closest we can get to silence, had to dispense with likes and dislikes; that to inhabit this state of mind, we cannot listen to what we want to hear and filter out what we don’t (5–6).
In the novel Night, Elie Wiesel uses the recurring themes of night and silence to reinforce the ideas represented by the characters and scenes of the text.
Throughout his writing, Wiesel connects the terrifying scenes of the Holocaust using these themes.
All around, through, and even inside of us is restless movement: the brain muses, nerve cells flare, hair grows, food becomes flesh, not to mention all that is going on at the subatomic level.
Our senses can only register a narrow band of all this movement, but even what we can sense is far too much for us.
A soundproof room about the size of an airplane hangar, an anechoic chamber is designed so that no sound or any other type of wave can enter, and inside there are no echoes of any kind, no reflections of sound or radio waves.
These chambers are commonly used by the Air Force and military contractors to test electronic equipment in quarantine from any interfering or contaminating waves. Yet having stood inside the chamber for a moment, the closest to noiselessness that any human being can get, he heard two sounds, one high pitched and one low.The composer had the intent of letting chance (unintended) sounds occur within the timeframe of , the Irish say.The music of what happens is what the audience heard and did not like (1–2).And yet, how impossible to maintain this state of mind in practice—to hear the song of the wood thrush and the scream of a frightened child with the same degree of composure and openness.For a composer, this kind of openness makes good sense; the inspiration for a new musical score cannot be limited just to the melodies, songs, concertos, operas, or symphonies that already exist.To think, to function in the world, to survive, we have to ignore most of what we can see and hear. We need peace of mind to concentrate, which is not possible without silence. Without silence, our dreams—sleeping or waking—are not possible.Without dreams, there can be nothing to imagine, nothing to hope for, no future.Or does silence end the moment sounds actually impose themselves on our consciousness?If silence is the giving up of intention, it can’t be in listening to what we chance to hear, because listening implies intent.Ideally, to the quiet mind, each sound we chance to hear becomes music, the continuous music of the restless universe of which we are a part.Silence is that openness of mind, a blank slate ready for whatever comes next, like a set of wind chimes lulled in perfect stillness until the next breeze.