Speaking of Silence

/ October 2023

First of all, I have never understood anything. Everything herein must be considered only recollections of thoughts, without supposing that I have ever believed any of them. I believe nothing; I know nothing.

Say that today situates itself in the eon of facts. Its predecessor, mourned for succumbing to worship, was burdened by superstition. Well, I don’t believe in ghosts anyways. But what have we lost with these jettisoned tales?

Consider the following example:

At the end of the narrow road’s stumble ‘cross the poppy-checkered hill, you’re liable to encounter a cave of indeterminate proportions. The cave, all outside observers agree, has no interest in whether it is found, or in what form it might be seen. It doesn’t seem to mind being discovered in a state of un- or mis- or mal-formation.

In line with this casual demeanor, the cave doesn’t bother to consider how its shape might affect casual spelunkers. Sometimes it twists itself into a slivered maze unfit for mammalian passage. Besides that, it’s known to garb itself with the occasional stalag(m/t)ite, knee-splitting pitfall, squelching muck berm, unforeseeable bat colony, and, in the most unfortunate cases, bodies of stone so loosely linked to the greater cave that the mere ripple of a blind man’s sigh is liable to cause a catastrophic cascade of rock.

Nor is the cave likely to take into consideration the potentialities within it. There tends to be, somewhere within its great recesses, a bed of flowers which, when smelled, frees you for a moment from the chain of consequences. Deeper still, the lucky visitor might wind up (only ever accidentally) by a round, still pool, through which may be divined the shape of things to come. And I daren’t even mention that, no fewer than on four occasions have my own ears heard of the jade room which grants just one singular wish…

As for me, I go to the cave just about every day. It’s always different, but I never mind. I always go far enough to see it (which happens to be far enough that the light doesn’t reach), but never too far, lest I lose myself in its whimsy. I just go to that spot which the sunlight’s echo doesn’t manage to touch. There, in the roaring stillness, I listen to the dew on the stone and the breeze in my teeth. I see things as first they were and last shall be. I can’t tell if my eyes are opened or closed, and I learn not to care.

I’ve spent such moments in the cave for nigh on two score years, and I haven’t learned anything about it. But every visit is different – and I like to think, though I might just be kidding myself, that when I’m still enough to make no sound, so still that even the cave is able to hear me – I think that the next time I visit its non-repeating hulk, I’ll know that it listened to my silence as I have, devoutly, to its own.

With that out of the way, consider a second example:

The candle seemed always to have just stopped rolling ‘long the rough wooden floor, though in truth it must’ve been out for some time. By the time I got there, it didn’t matter since the silent man’s face was bathed in daylight. The red leaves fluttered to the ground on cue to be crushed underfoot.

The silent man never needed anything, though I wished to give him everything. His bowl of soup was full and hot every time I checked, though no food ever entered the house. The fire would burn through the logs, but no matter how long my visit, there were always enough. His bowl of water never drained, his vase of flowers stayed crisply fresh, and even the frost on the windowsill seemed to arrange itself to the unaware aura of the house.

Most disconcertingly, the silent man never expressed any desires. I would’ve given him a castle, a forest, the stars in the sky and the fish in the sea – but he wanted nothing. He slept on the floor and had one set of clothes. He might’ve once read, but these days, just sat.

I would enter that house with a sense of dread. Every time, I worried that the day had come in which the intolerable wooden pain of the quiet man’s mind would burst through the seams of his peace-keeping effigy. How else could such an auto-crucifixion end?

But that’s what’s amazing about the silent man’s way. Every time I saw him, he would look at me with the fullness of the moon and the warmth of the trees. His gaze would fall upon me as manna from heaven and, every single day, he could be described by no words. His form was his own, and the solidity with which he bore his lonesome personhood flushed him with a haunting air of magic. His face never failed to be filled with that universal color: radiance.

Let us take a moment to reflect. Silence is not the silent man’s burden; it is his reward. But there remains the great unanswerable question: does the silent man visit the cave? What would it mean for him to do so? Would he and the cave understand each other as kin?

I try to avoid the metaphysical. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder, in the still chasms behind my mind, whether I’ve misunderstood the whole thing. Perhaps it’s a nonsensical question to ask of how the silent man views the cave. Creeping into my thought is the cosmic suspicion that the silent man and the cave are one and the same – as inseparable as the mind and the body.

The reader may notice that the above text is entirely devoid of facts. It must then be denounced as illegitimate – incompatible with the empirical canon of our present day. All the better, as I see it, since only those who are so lost as to have abandoned the leprous kingdom of objectivity will carry the courage needed to see the absent wisdom within.