Some Impressions on Words, Voice, Listening, and Silence
Impressions for an inner and outer study
The human voice is composed of a fundamental tone and various harmonics, depending on who is speaking and the various existing physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual conditions. The voice rides on the waves of the breath, which is also conditioned by many factors. When I truly listen to myself as I speak, a miracle occurs: I experience how my voice manifests “who I am” at that moment.
It is important, however, to listen not just to the words themselves, but also to their source and how they vibrate in the body/mind. For instance, do the words arise from a silent, unknown place in myself or from other words (like the billiard balls of Newtonian physics)? It makes all the difference.
When words proceed from other words, they proceed associatively, with no time or space encompassing and penetrating them. The entire process becomes mechanical. This word by you evokes that word by another which then evokes another word by you and so on.
When you listen to an argument between people you will notice this principle in action–sometimes people are even saying the same thing but don’t realize it because the words are just bouncing horizontally off of one another with no vertical sense of real meaning. Or, on the contrary, people can think they are agreeing when they actually disagree quite radically. No one is really listening. Buttons are simply being pushed and words move back and forth interactively by momentum. But when we pause and listen, when we stop inwardly, we have an opportunity to sense and feel the silence again and understand better what it is we wish to say, and what the other is actually saying.
In his book The World of Silence (published in 1948), Max Picard writes: “Words that merely come from other words are hard and aggressive. Such words are also lonely, and a great part of the melancholy in the world today is due to the fact that man has made words lonely by separating them from silence.”
As I mentioned, words have horizontal and vertical aspects. The “horizontal” represents the associative action of the words, the way in which they touch and stimulate one another, much the same way that a billiard ball hits another, which hits another, and so on, on the flat surface of a billiard table. The “vertical” represents the depths from which words arise, and the meaning they carry as a result of that depth.
When words arise from that deeper, more spacious place, we may use the words incorrectly (as far as the dictionary is concerned) but what is being said is understood in and through the silence, however confused the mind might be. The fundamental tone and the harmonics are not just heard but also felt and sensed. Resistance to listening dissolves into silence and an embodied sense of life and meaning.
This essay is based on a conversation I had with friends on my Facebook Authors Page.
Copyright 2011, by Dennis Lewis