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THE SOUND OF SILENCE


When I was twenty I decided to take a vow of silence. I'd been reading a biography on Mahatma Gandhi and learned that this is what he used to do, so in the spirit of what's good enough for the goose I shut my lips and bit my tongue.

When I was still speaking, I announced my vow to my family. This was a big mistake. Saying I planned to keep quiet called attention to a practice that should really go on inconspicuously. The sun had not yet set and I was back to gabbing away.

Had I to do it all over again, I would have modified my vow to allow me to speak only when absolutely necessary, as to convey important information that could not be communicated without words. Which is basically what I do now. Basically I am a living vow of silence. Writing is after all silent communication. Just don't invite me to your party or else I won't shut up.

If more people practiced silence, how much quieter society would be! It says in some book somewhere that you shouldn't take the Lord's name in vain. What exactly is the Lord's name? If the Lord is everything, then every word names God or God's attributes. So all language is really the Lord's name. All sound, even. So this commandment really means that you should not speak in vain.

And yet here we are, in an atmosphere of so much idle chatter and gossip. So much air pollution and not just automobiles to blame. Stop and listen to yourself speak. You'll find that most of what you say could be better left unsaid, or at least edited in the interest of brevity and clarity. I'm not being critical. It's plain truth.

Turns out silence has benefits other than not adding to the ambient noise. You'll be labeled a good listener, thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive. All are traits highly esteemed in the eyes of a potential mate. Look at me I'm single.

So starting today, say only that which is necessary. Another version of this is the lesson we were all taught and some of us learned in kindergarten: If you have nothing good to say, don't say anything at all. Just don't tell anyone about it!

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