More than a week ago, I was thinking about the very famous phrase “Silence is Golden” I don’t know why this thought stayed in the forefront of my mind since then, but it did.Who said it? Where did it come from? When was its first occurrence in human history?
Did it originate in a single culture and then spread across the human population? Or is it one of those human universals that the great philosophers and thinkers from across the globe serendipitously came upon the same realization around the same time in history? It got me thinking about the undeniable power of silence in almost every aspect of our lives.
But, first, what is “silence”?
Before we even think about the power of silence in various aspects of our life, it is necessary to define what exact this word “silence” means. In English, the Oxford Dictionary defines silence (noun) as a “complete absence of sound; the fact or state of abstaining from speech; the avoidance of mention or discussing something; the state of standing still and not speaking as a sign of respect for someone deceased or in an opportunity of prayer”.
This is not exactly what I mean when I am talking about the power of silence. I think Dr. Ursula King, defines it better than the Oxford Dictionary, for the purpose of my posts. She says,
“Yet silence is much more than the absence of noise or the concealment of truth. It can reveal itself as a luminous centre that energises human lives, but it can have its sombre side, from the silence of death to the silence that hide sin, guilt and evil — secret stories suppressed by the powerful or swept away by the tides of history.”
This is more along the lines of what I want to talk about. That luminous center that is hiding within us, that is absolutely advantageous in the realms of self-improvement, relationships and business among other aspects of life. Of course, I will also be talking about the other side – the darker side of silence.
So, what does “Silence is Golden” mean?
Turns out, it is part of a larger proverb. Also, turns out, we might not know who said it first. The first time it is used in English is in 1848 by Thomas Carlyle. He in turn was translating it from a German book, so some claim its a German proverb. But others claim that its origins date back to ancient Egypt. So, this got me even more curious.
I wanted to find out if different cultures had similar sayings, who said them and when, and, in general, the overall place of silence in our lives.
Long story short, I found out some amazing things about silence in the last week. The first immediate thing I found out was just how incredibly popular this topic is on the wide world of the internet (ironic, I know!)
The second thing I discovered is that there are not very many references (that I found anyway), which treat the topic the way I am going to. I found little tidbits in various scriptures, academic journals, blog posts, books, videos, but I didn’t find anything comprehensive enough to answer my question about the Power of Silence in various aspects of our lives. So, ironically (again), this will be a 6-part blog.
In an earlier post, Identity Crisis: 6 Epiphanies…Part 2, I talked in some length about the need to find your own voice, and I specifically said,
“I let the strength of my voice and not the volume of my speech get the message across.”
I don’t intend to contradict myself at all. I do strive to let the strength of my voice get my message across to people. Also, a lot of time too much complete silence can be maddening (literally! There is research to back this up).
In the next 4 of the 5 posts, I want to talk instead about how the power of silence is sometimes the strength of our voice. The points I specifically want to discuss are the advantages that grasping and training the power of silence can add to our self (improvement), relationships and business.
By choosing these topics, I don’t mean to impose at all on the right to free speech; nor do I mean to imply that you shouldn’t speak when you NEED to. In fact, that is the exact opposite of what I want to accomplish through these posts. Silence can be a tremendous power to control, but sometimes we are placed in situations where silence can be the worst weapon in our arsenal. So, the last post in this series will be about when the power of silence can actually be a hindrance in life.
I have been on an absolutely tremendous, breathtaking journey researching this topic. I hope I am able to convey just how relevant the power of silence is to all of us in the next few posts, and even how relevant it is when silence becomes a hindrance in our lives.
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– Dr. AJ