The way this world works, people are very apt to use the words they speak not so much as a way of revealing but, rather, as a way of concealing who they really are and what they really think, and that is why more than a few moments of silence with people we do not know well are apt to make us so tense and uneasy. Stripped of our verbal camouflage, we feel unarmed against the world and vulnerable, so we start babbling about anything just to keep the silence at bay.
—Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life
I looked to St. Fred today for something to wrap my mind around, and found these lines in today’s meditation. I was struck by how true this is, for me anyway. So many times I have found myself in conversations—usually with people I don’t know well—in which I felt compelled to fill a pause with babbling—“just to keep the silence at bay” —and then ended up not really listening or connecting with the other person in a meaningful way. Guilty as charged. I needed that reminder.
Also, one of the great blessings I have received through my daily poetry practice is the discovery that I really can’t reflect on or process in writing the meaningful events in my life without some period of silence every single day, even if it’s just a few minutes. Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I’ve only just recently realized that I can’t multi-task every waking moment, like those chipper moms in TV commercials, and expect to create anything. I have to stop talking to start writing—who knew?!
Lastly, I love Buechner’s notion of using words not to conceal but to reveal who we really are and what we really think. Here’s my St. Fred-inspired injunction to myself:
Don’t fear the silence.
Let unnecessary words
fall away. Be still.