Thursday, October 09, 2014
the silence of the iambs
I just finished a novel by Haruki Murakami imbued with silence. It was as if silence were a character in the novel (in the text; academics like to say text). "Silence descended over them," or words to that effect, appeared on the page many times. As a reader, I felt those silences. They were like white spaces on the layout of a page, or white scenery on a stage, or deep pauses in a conversation, as in a Harold Pinter play. Sometimes the silences were comfortable, reflective; other times, they were painful, anxious. Isn't that a strange thing about humans: that a silence can be rewarding or agonizing? Have silence scientists figured out a way to measure it, gauge its import, its flavor? I suspect they have. And I would not at all be shocked to learn that our bodies give off a smell to provide a clue (or a cue, for that matter) as to what sort of silence is descending, a salubrious silence or a malevolent one. Ours is not a time of silence. Our culture does not care to abide silences. There is little silence of the lambs or of iambs. (Couldn't resist that bit of English-major snobbery.) Silence of the child at the mother's breast, the purring of a cat, the cough in the cathedral pew, the silence of the beads being told. All silences punctuated my minor sounds. Or silence of the phone not ringing, the voice that is no more, the word unkenneled, the interval between lightning and thunder. And so much more. So much less.