Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Reader's Query

'I would like to hear your take on the distinction/relation between solitude and silence—and silence-experienced-in-community and silence-experienced-in-solitude. Please substitute a word of your own choosing for 'experienced'—known?? done??'

Here is another huge topic to which I can't possibly do justice. I will post random thoughts as they occur.

The reader's question refers to interior silence. He is quite right in understanding the word "experience" to be problematic, as experience is always interpretation, filtered through a lens that contains elements of projection, wishful thinking and all the other baggage we carry with us. If silence becomes integrated into a person's life, interpretation takes on a different character and can be useful in terms of metaphor, but this is another topic.

The word 'experience' is particularly problematic in the present cultural climate that exalts fashionable subjectivity that objectifies the world. For example, it is no longer possible to go to the bank; a 'banking experience' (one most of us would rather not have) is forced on us. It doesn't take much imagination to think of the disgusting limits to which this sort of marketing of experience can take us. Worse, it means that self-reflection and self-indulgence trump engagement with life and/or inhabiting it; instead we are caught in feedback loops of our prejudices, neuroses and the physiological effects of what we ate for breakfast. In Martin Buber's terms, as long as we are seeking "experience", the intimacy (and courtesy, in the medieval sense) of "thou" is impossible.

In the same way, people make the mistake of going to look for an 'experience' of silence, as if silence were a commodity, a thing, or a state induced by certain environmental conditions. Looking for experience of silence entails certain assumptions about silence, what it is or isn't, how it ought to feel; it also assumes that silence can be grasped and controlled, when in fact silence is a gift, and an essential role in receiving it is to let go of all claims to experience.

[to be continued]


Blogger Maggie Ross said...

message for dfish: thank you for your comment. Your first paragraph on what on silence was presented to whom and why it didn't work and the relationship to the article in 'America' was not clear. Could you please amplify and resubmit? Thanks

11:15 am, October 13, 2009  

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