Monday, July 6, 2015

The Sound of Silence

"It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers [and sisters].
The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them….
Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers [and sisters] for what they are, not for what they say."

- Thomas Merton.

Every once in a while, those close to and in touch with me experience something that greatly baffles them.

I simply disappear for days or weeks. No calls, sms, chats... etc.
I then suddenly materialize, seemingly from ether.

In this post, I'll try to explain why this is, and even more important, why I have come to embrace and now have absolutely no problem with this most uncommon of happenings.
I do realize it is necessary. At least to me, as weird as you may find it.


That I still live alone is not an accident. It is deliberate.
You see, I learnt from an earlier time to make the most of time alone. And no, I have never been incarcerated.Some of my other reasons are beyond the scope of this post. But here is a hint.

Back in High School, I revelled in solitude. I would often go to the classrooms during weekends, not to read the prescribed stuff (Math, English, Chemistry etc) but novels and other random reads such as this book I chanced upon in the school library. It is still a top favorite.

Reading thus became the one thing I totally loved to do, and still is.

The same thing continued in college, where I became even more averse to crowds. The JKUAT library, plus my room were hideouts I spent hours reading Psychology books, history books and other random titles.

In my Senior years, the Microsoft Encarta was an amazing companion on my desktop.

Being alone often means loneliness to many people. The two are not to be mistaken. According to May Sarton:

Loneliness is the poverty of self,
Solitude is the richness of self.

To me, solitude is that time you can be with truly authentic company - yourself.


It is only in silence that you get to hear things really well. As a writer, there are times when it becomes necessary to switch off the radio and work in silence. All I get to hear is the natural sounds of birds chirping outside.

Writing is a very personal affair, and given that it demands a lot of reading, time spent alone and in silence creates a most conducive environment for the two engagements.

Silence is also necessary when one wants to reflect and simply listen to what can only be heard sans external distractions.

Wherefore art thou, Pete?

Back to the crux of this post... why do I disappear every once in a while?

The honest answer is that it just happens. I get to this point where I need to be with myself again. So I switch off the phone, disconnect from social networks and retreat to my den to enjoy my own company.

At times, it is a consequence of, and coincidental to those days when I want to have a moment to myself, to have a conversation with me a la Macy Gray.
It is at such times that I do a searching and fearless moral inventory of my life. During this time when reflection is paramount, when rejuvenation is essential, external influences are most undesirable and therefore kept at bay.

The only drawback to all this is that some people, those who really care and relish engaging me, find it insensitive on my part to simply disappear and then suddenly come back... all without explanation.

I have no idea when I will next be drawn to silence and solitude. I can only hope that it doesn't end up consuming me, as a moth is by a flaming light.
Currently, I am happy that these episodes make me a better person. The hardest thing upon my return is explaining to loved ones that my disappearance had nothing to do with them, that it is for the greater good.

It is my hope that this post somewhat explains this uncommon phenomenon.

* * *

It becomes necessary at times to get away from the noise and haste, and actually take time to live. To live a life without all the pressure and distractions that modern society imposes on us.

Taking time to listen to one's heart presents a moment of clarity and an opportunity to reflect and rejuvenate. The sound of silence is the one thing you can never miss!


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