Silence is the absence of ambient audible sound, the emission of sounds of such low intensity that they do not draw attention to themselves, or the state of having ceased to produce sounds; this latter sense can be extended to apply to the cessation or absence of any form of communication, whether through speech or other media.
Sometimes speakers fall silent when they hesitate in searching for a word, or interrupt themselves before correcting themselves. Discourse analysis shows that people use brief silences to mark the boundaries of prosodic units, in turn-taking, or as reactive tokens, e.g., as a sign of displeasure, disagreement, embarrassment, desire to think, confusion, and the like. Relatively prolonged intervals of silence can be used in rituals; in some religious disciplines, people maintain silence for protracted periods, or even for the rest of their lives, as an ascetic means of spiritual transformation.
Silence may become an effective rhetorical practice when people choose to be silent for a specific purpose. It has not merely been recognized as a theory but also as a phenomenon with practical advantages. When silence becomes rhetorical, it is intentional since it reflects a meaning. Rhetorical silence targets an audience rather than the rhetorician.
Joseph Jordania has suggested that in social animals (including humans), silence can be a sign of danger. Many social animals produce seemingly haphazard sounds which are known as contact calls. These are a mixture of various sounds, accompanying the group’s everyday business (for example, foraging, feeding), and they are used to maintain audio contact with the members of the group. Some social animal species communicate the signal of potential danger by stopping contact calls and freezing, without the use of alarm calls, through silence. Charles Darwin wrote about this in relation with wild horse and cattle. Jordania has further suggested that human humming could have been a contact method that early humans used to avoid silence. According to his suggestion, humans find prolonged silence distressing (suggesting danger to them). This may help explain why lone humans in relative sonic isolation feel a sense of comfort from humming, whistling, talking to themselves, or having the TV or radio on.
“Silence” in spirituality is often a metaphor for inner stillness. A silent mind, freed from the onslaught of thoughts and thought patterns, is both a goal and an important step in spiritual development. Such “inner silence” is not about the absence of sound; instead, it is understood to bring one in contact with the divine, the ultimate reality, or one’s own true self, one’s divine nature. Many religious traditions imply the importance of being quiet and still in mind and spirit for transformative and integral spiritual growth to occur. In Christianity, there is the silence of contemplative prayer such as centering prayer and Christian meditation; in Islam, there are the wisdom writings of the Sufis who insist on the importance of finding silence within. In Buddhism, the descriptions of silence and allowing the mind to become silent are implied as a feature of spiritual enlightenment. In Hinduism, including the teachings of Advaita Vedanta and the many paths of yoga, teachers insist on the importance of silence, Mauna, for inner growth. Ramana Maharishi, a revered Hindu sage, said, “The only language able to express the whole truth is silence.” Perkey Avot, the Jewish Sages guide for living, states that, “Tradition is a safety fence to Torah, tithing a safety fence to wealth, vows a safety fence for abstinence; a safety fence for wisdom … is silence.” In some traditions of Quakerism, communal silence is the usual context of worship meetings, in patient expectancy for the divine to speak in the heart and mind. In the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah said in “Words of Wisdom”, “the essence of true safety is to observe silence”. Eckhart Tolle says that silence can be seen either as the absence of noise, or as the space in which sound exists, just as inner stillness can be seen as the absence of thought, or the space in which thoughts are perceived.
A common way to remember a tragic incident and to remember the victims or casualties of such an event is a commemorative moment of silence.
Argumentative silence is the rhetorical practice of saying nothing when an opponent in a debate expects something to be said. Poorly executed, it can be offensive, like refusing to answer a direct question. A well-timed silence can throw an opponent off and give the debater the upper hand.
An argument from silence (Latin: argumentum ex silentio) is an argument based on the assumption that someone’s silence on a matter suggests (an informal fallacy) that person’s ignorance of the matter. In general, ex silentio refers to the claim that the absence of something demonstrates the proof of a proposition.
The right to silence is a legal protection enjoyed by people undergoing police interrogation or trial in certain countries. The law is either explicit or recognized in many legal systems.
The documentary film In Pursuit of Silence (2016) portrays the spiritual and physical benefits of silence, as well as the price paid individually and collectively for a noisy world. It is narrated by authors Helen Lees (Silence in Schools), Pico Iyer (The Art of Stillness), Susan Cain (Quiet), Maggie Ross (Silence: A User’s Guide), and George Prochnik (In Pursuit of Silence).
Main article: Rest (music)
Music inherently depends on silence, in some form or another, to distinguish other periods of sound and allow dynamics, melodies, and rhythms to have greater impact. For example, most music scores feature rests, which denote periods of silence. In addition, silence in music can be seen as a time for contemplation. The audience feels the effects of the previous notes and melodies, and can intentionally reflect on what they have heard. Silence does not hinder musical excellence but can enhance the sounds of instruments and vocals within a given musical composition.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia