Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sweet is the Silence

I just spent a few lovely winter days with the students at Moorestown Friends School. MFS is a Quaker school and, as such, appreciates the beauty of silence. The 200+ yr old Meeting House is a deep well of silence, and according to their custom, each of my programs began with a moment of silence. The gentle strength of the silence that follows the scurrying and noise of a full room is enchanting.

I am reminded what Jean Louis Barrault wrote in his autobiography, Memories For Tomorrow, that "the greatest moments of drama happen in silence."

In storytelling, silence is dynamic. The creation and quality of a silence is determined by the qualities of the sounds that precede it. A large sounds yields a large silence. 

Additionally, silence finds its corollary in stillness. 

Stillness is to silence what movement is to sound. They are the dual forces that sculpt experience. A partial silence might occur if I stop talking but keep walking. Likewise a partial sound exists if I stop walking but keep talking. Mix them and match them to conjure silences. Raise the volume, increase the action, then abruptly stop sound and action. What follows? Resounding silence.

Enter the silence like diving into the depths of a clear pool.
Drift there a moment.
Feel the surrounding universe.

Sillence is where we fully enter the feelings of a moment. No matter how emotional my story may be, if I am still talking, the brain is still working. The  words are demanding thought and intellect. If I want you to feel fully a moment in my story, I must stop talking altogether.

I must stop moving as well, so that the seeing eye is not distracted.

Then we dive out of the head and into the heart.

I often judge the quality of the storytelling experience by the quality of the silences we achieve together. I listen for those moments when, out of the action, out of the words, we achieve still and silent communion.

Thank you Moorestown students for sharing that communion with me.

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