Filosofy on Friday – Silence

The starting point for today’s post was my absence last week. Silent pages.  If the frothy filosofer filosofises out loud in a forest and no-one hears him, does he make a sound?  Maybe it is the sound of one hand clapping. A new twist on an old conundrum.  Oh, I was not in a forest last week. Far from it. I was in Birmingham. Although there was a hint of the Black Forest with the faux German Christmas Market – plywood booths festooned with kitsch, the smell of bratwurst wafting along New Street. I succumbed. I enjoyed a bratwurst standing by the tramway, watching the late afternoon shoppers, and remembering the hotdog I had at a famous stall in Reykjavik – smeared with equal measures of mustard, ketchup and guilt (because someone was not happy getting lost in the cold and rain trying to find this place).  Some of the condiments also found their way onto the hotdog.

I am not sure if I have ever experienced complete silence. We live in a world that is dominated by sound. Perhaps, more accurately, we are surrounded by noise. The distinction between noise and sound is a value judgement. Noise in the city and sounds in the countryside. In reality, it is not such a simple dichotomy – as Paul Simon said,  “everyone loves the sound  of a train in the distance”.

We vary in our ability to cope with silence. We recognise awkward silences, spooky silences, and the comfortable intimate silence couples sometimes share. Is silence a positive presence, something manifest and tangible, or is it just the absence of sound? Is silence an absolute, or does it exist on a continuum? We can enjoy the silence of a walk through a forest, but we become aware of the sounds of wildlife, of the wind in the trees, even of the sounds of our own footsteps and breathing.

And whither poetry? The silences between words, between stanzas, can convey so much, particularly when we consider performance poetry.

Keeping silent can be both a virtue and a sin. What should be uttered and what needs to remain unsaid? Consider the recent revelations about child sexual abuse in the world of football. Consider “whistle blowing” – again, in recent news, the fining of a cruise company for wilful pollution, revealed by someone breaking the silence.

Thinking about silence can lead us into all sorts of strange alleyways.

Silence? I think I’ll keep quiet about it.


Please sponsor me  for the 2017 Brighton Marathon and support MIND to help people affected  by mental health problems.Derek Lee in running gear





9 thoughts on “Filosofy on Friday – Silence

  1. Silence needs to be hunted down, along with its sibling, stillness. There’s not much that can’t be improved by a little of either or both.

  2. What a GREAT, thought-provoking post! I especially connected with, “The silences between words, between stanzas, can convey so much, particularly when we consider performance poetry.” I LIVE to find surprises in the silence between words and sentences. I used to not be able to stand the silence. I think I was afraid of my thoughts. Now, however, after having our son living with us and his media stuff going all the time, I can’t wait for everyone to leave the house. I NEVER turn on music any more…

      1. Ah! Elevator music! LOL I don’t think TOO much divides us these days. Seems politically we’re both kind of stuck in the same kind of spot! Been meaning to read The Picture of Dorian Gray forever. 😀

  3. Ha ha! Like the picture, none of us is getting any younger! Yes, politically we are all in a pickle. I try not to think too much about the future. I’m scared that so many think we can thrive as an island state in this global age of shifting allegiances and powers. Do you still plan to visit next year, despite everything?

  4. I understand what you mean about the island state and shifting allegiances and powers. You guys are kind of all out there by yourselves, aren’t you! I think over here we’re afraid Trump is going to start WWIII with China. He’s a ticking time bomb. And yes, we are still planning to come next September. We’re hoping since you won’t have actually pulled out by then if I understand it correctly (right?) that things won’t be changed too much. They are lowering the prices on that cruise like crazy. Just knocked another $400 per person off our room. Last we heard the ship was only a third full. So there must be a lot of folks who are real uncertain about the political climate. How’s the training going, btw? 😀

    1. My goodness, it’s Friday again! Yes, we will still be in Europe when you arrive on these shores! Great you get the advantage of price cuts – more to spend on fish and chips! Training is taking back seat at moment, I really need to get on to it.

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