Indeed, for a living being there is no such thing as true silence, for silence itself is a revelation of the mind and the heart, an echo of the soul of a different form.
Some people use silence as a disguise of the emptiness of the head.
Some use it as a means to depict their disorientation and melancholy.
And some use it as a way of expressing their angers and sorrows.
Silence usually is ephemeral. It reminds one of the bronze bells dangling from a pagoda's eaves; on windless days they are a decoration upon the age-weathered beauty, but with wind they give out wonderful tinkling and jingling metallurgic sounds, as if echoing age-old stories of long, long ago...
Do you not think the same of silent people?
They say that "silence is golden", but of what nature is this "gold"? It can include integrity, honesty and kindness; it can stand for indifference to and detachment from fame and fortune; but it can also act as an excuse for hypocrisy, slyness and cowardice... the glittering of gold may not necessarily be the most brilliant lustre in the world.
Can it be that permanent silence is only represented by death?
Perhaps even death cannot represent true silence, for the carrier of the soul can turn into dust, so that the sincere and wise voices from the bottom of the heart will trigger long-lasting echoes in the seas of human hearts...
There is a hill near my home that I often climb at night. The noise of the city is a far-off murmur. In the hush of dark I share the cheerfulness of crickets and the confidence of owls. But it is the drama of the moonrise that I come to see. For that restores in me a quiet and clarity that the city spends too freely.
From this hill I have watched many moons rise. Each one had its own mood. There have been broad, confident harvest moons in autumn; shy, misty moons in spring; lonely, white winter moons rising into the utter silence of an ink-black sky and smoke-smudged orange moons over the dry fields of summer. Each, like fine music, excited my heart and then calmed my soul.
But we, who live indoors, have lost contact with the moon. The glare of street lights and the dust of pollution veil the night sky. Though men have walked on the moon, it grows less familiar. Few of us can say what time the moon will rise tonight.
Still, it tugs at our minds.
If we unexpectedly encounter the full moon, huge and yellow over the horizon, we are helpless but to stare back at its commanding presence. And the moon has gifts to bestow upon those who watch.
I learned about its gifts one July evening in the mountains. My car had mysteriously stalled, and I was stranded and alone. The sun had set, and I was watching what seemed to be the bright-orange glow of a forest fire beyond a ridge to the east. Suddenly, the ridge itself seemed to burst into flame. Then, the rising moon, huge and red and grotesquely misshapen by the dust and sweat of the summer atmosphere, loomed up out of the woods. Distorted thus by the hot breath of earth, the moon seemed ill-tempered and imperfect. Dogs at nearby farmhouse barked nervously, as if this strange light had wakened evil spirits in the weeds.
But as the moon lifted off the ridge it gathered firmness and authority. Its complexion changed from red, to orange, to gold, to impassive yellow. It seemed to draw light out of the darkening earth, for as it rose, the hills and valleys below grew dimmer. By the time the moon stood clear of the horizon, full-chested and round and of the colour of ivory, the valleys were deep shadows in the landscape. The dogs, reassured that this was the familiar moon, stopped barking. And all at once I felt a confidence and joy close to laughter.
The drama took an hour. Moonrise is slow and serried with subtleties. To watch it, we must slip into an older, more patient sense of time.
To watch the moon move inflexibly higher is to find an unusual stillness within ourselves. Our imaginations become aware of the vast distance of space, the immensity of the earth and the huge improbability of our own existence. We feel small but privileged.
Moonlight shows us none of life’s harder edges. Hillsides seem silken and silvery, the oceans still and blue in its light. In moonlight we become less calculating, more drawn to our feelings.
Most people need to hear those "three little words" I love you. Once in a while, they hear them just in time.
I met Connie the day she was admitted to the hospice ward, where I worked as a volunteer. Her husband, Bill, stood nervously nearby as she was transferred from the gurney to the hospital bed. Although Connie was in the final stages of her fight against cancer, she was alert and cheerful. We got her settled in. I finished marking her name on all the hospital supplies she would be using, then asked if she needed anything.
"Oh, yes," she said, "would you please show me how to use the TV? I enjoy the soaps so much and I don't want to get behind on what's happening." Connie was a romantic. She loved soap operas, romance novels and movies with a good love story. As we became acquainted, she confided how frustrating it was to be married 32 years to a man who often called her "a silly woman."
"Oh, I know Bill loves me," she said, "but he has never been one to say he loves me, or send cards to me." She sighed and looked out the window at the trees in the courtyard. "I'd give anything if he'd say 'I love you,' but it's just not in his nature."
Bill visited Connie every day. In the beginning, he sat next to the bed while she watched the soaps. Later, when she began sleeping more, he paced up and down the hallway outside her room. Soon, when she no longer watched television and had fewer waking moments, I began spending more of my volunteer time with Bill.
He talked about having worked as a carpenter and how he liked to go fishing. He and Connie had no children, but they'd been enjoying retirement by traveling, until Connie got sick. Bill could not express his feelings about the fact that his wife was dying.
One day, over coffee in the cafeteria, I got him on the subject of women and how we need romance in our lives; how we love to get sentimental1 cards and love letters.
"Do you tell Connie you love her?" I asked (knowing his answer), and he looked at me as if I was crazy.
"I don't have to," he said. "She knows I do!"
"I'm sure she knows," I said, reaching over and touching his hands rough, carpenter's hands that were gripping the cup as if it were the only thing he had to hang onto "but she needs to hear it, Bill. She needs to hear what she has meant to you all these years. Please think about it."
We walked back to Connie's room. Bill disappeared inside, and I left to visit another patient. Later, I saw Bill sitting by the bed. He was holding Connie's hand as she slept. The date was February 12.
Two days later I walked down the hospice ward at noon. There stood Bill, leaning up against the wall in the hallway, staring at the floor. I already knew from the head nurse that Connie had died at 11 A.M..
When Bill saw me, he allowed himself to come into my arms for a long time. His face was wet with tears and he was trembling. Finally, he leaned back against the wall and took a deep breath.
"I have to say something," he said. "I have to say how good I feel about telling her." He stopped to blow his nose. "I thought a lot about what you said, and this morning I told her how much I loved her... and loved being married to her. You shoulda2 seen her smile!"
I went into the room to say my own goodbye to Connie. There, on the bedside table, was a large Valentine card from Bill. You know, the sentimental kind that says, "To my wonderful wife... I love you."