Silence is often frightening. In nature, silence rings before a break in the normal ordered chaos. You notice the quiet before the storm when all the world hangs still in air that is too heavy for the sound waves. The eerie absence of the happy chatter as even the wind stands still before something breaks the moment by existing too loud. Buildings and cement do not change its hair-raising ability. Walk the streets of a city that never sleeps and find them void of all life, the plants were evicted long ago but now the humans have faded into the fog. Maybe a crowded cafe, and where sudden silence falls, it becomes harsh and tense like the broken china plate that caused it.
But it isn’t just places. We as humans respond oddly to silence ourselves. There are ones who live in silence, who embrace it and see it as a calm surrender. Who not only do not speak but seem to exist on another level where even the noises of their feet and rustle of their breath is more quiet than our own. And maybe it is not that they are mute, but a choice simply to limit their expression. They think each word twice and twirl it on their tongue before it ever sees the daylight. The magic in such a person is that what they say becomes gold, every word worth listening to. And people stop and listen. When one who does not talk speaks to you, you do not ignore it. It is not the yelled threat that scares you it is the whispered one. Because you know that one has been thought out, rolled around in the brain, and that if push came to shove it would happen and it wouldn’t be just temporary emotions but feelings that eat and live and breathe driving home the point.
But from others, the silence is a warning, from those who are so often loud and creating the noise in which we live. Someone who has been pushed too far, run too long and sees that they are back in the same footprints that they made that morning. Silence is the moment before hell breaks loose. It should not be the one who boasts loudly and swaggers around, but the quiet confidence of someone who can meet a threat without a comeback or a flinch that is both impressive and unnerving. Maybe it is a sign of immense pain, of enduring and surviving and struggling so much that there simply is nothing left to yell for. No belief in the worth of slinging syllables at the sky to remind others of your hurt.
Still, sometimes it is the noise that is scary. When a body that does not cry makes a sound like a world is ending and the hair stands up on your arms it is every bit as frightening as the steel staring down of unending torture. When that cuss word drops and that voice breaks from someone who never says anything worse than “crap”, it is a sure sign that their very resolve is shaking. When your body breaks and so does your resolve, a crumpled mass on the ground and it’s all you can do to whisper orders that you hope your wreck of a body manages to follow to keep you both alive. When you yell and your throat rips some raw energy from the space between ages and funnels it out of you in a sound not quite human. All you can do, feeling nothing and everything, and that noise that is chiling your own spine as it comes from your soul, as your world burns.
We are taught that crying is weakness. To show tears or emotions is a sign of no control, of feminism, of childish inability to handle life. We are taught that yelling is a coarse form of communication, unrefined in its inability to put ideas into words and thus resorting to drowning out the other. We are taught to stay silent, to handle our feelings, our hurts, our worries, our happiness in the echoes and stillness. Because that is the mark of civilized people who have their world and their emotions under control.
But we don’t have our world under control. It is very much outside of our control. Things happen, pandemics, crazy politicians, wildfires, and climate change. The world shifts and moves in a way that is much vaster than anything we could ever hope to comprehend or understand, let alone master. We, the human race, as an almost sneeze on the timeline of the world have dared to think that we have tamed it and beaten it back into submission. Instead we have harnessed ourselves into a way of thinking about ourselves as a species that we are no longer able to process emotions in a way that is natural.
By the time you get to the silence that will be cracked and gouged as the emotions claw their way out, it is too late. Your precariously balanced control is gone and only after this moment of true feeling will you have any chance of wresting it back. So don’t let it get there. Feel the feelings, feel them loudly if need be, or violently if you can do so without hurting others. Break glass, chop wood, yell at the stars and ask why, sit in silence and cry so hard that your body is sore.
We try to pretend otherwise but,
It is never not ok to be human