20 May 2015

A Contemplative Moment: The World of Silence

Silence is not simply what happens when we stop talking. It is more than the negative renunciation of language; it is more than simply a condition we can produce at will. When language ceases, silence begins. But it does not begin because language ceases. The absence simply makes the presence of Silence more apparent. Silence is an autonomous phenomenon . . . it is . . .an independent whole subsisting in and through itself. It is creative as language is creative; and it is formative of human beings as language is formative, but not in the same degree. Silence belongs to the basic structure of man.

Silence is nothing merely negative; it is not the mere absence of speech. It is positive, a complete world in itself. Silence has greatness simply because it is. It is, and that is its greatness, its pure existence. There is no beginning to silence and no end: it seems to have its origins in the time when everything was still pure Being. It is like uncreated, everlasting Being. When Silence is present, it is as though nothing but silence had ever existed.

Where silence is, man is observed by silence. Silence looks at man more than man looks at silence. Man does not put silence to the test; silence puts man to the test. One cannot imagine a world in which there is nothing but language and speech, but one can imagine a world where there is nothing but silence. Silence contains everything within itself. It is not waiting for anything; it is always wholly present and it completely fills out the space in which it appears.

The World of Silence by Max Picard