March 5, 2009
Would you take a vow of silence for a year?
Mostly, I’m not so into hippie mind expansion experiments or Zen dabbling or Catholic asceticism, but I would be totally down to give this a go. And actually, I would do this dare for more than just the money. I mean, don’t get it twisted, okay? I’d be mostly doing it for the money. Just not only for the money. I hope we understand each other.
Let’s start with this: Not talking is hard. It’s as hard as it sounds and even harder, especially if you’re as verbal as I am. The need to upchuck thoughts and feelings in long strands of words is a constant one for me, and not having that ability is a bit like losing an appendage. I once lost my voice on tour, and when you sing in bands, not being able to talk comes as really, really bad news. Having to write out every idea was a huge, tiring and futile pain in the ass; my hands simply couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. The words got stuck somewhere between my brain and my throat, where – once I became fed up with the impassable limits of trying to articulate myself via handwritten notes – they formed a cluttered, messy pile. All those words just sat there, idle and useless, until my voice came back. Finally, I could say what I meant. It was a relief as satisfying as exhaling after holding my breath underwater.
I have a feeling that, when you take a lengthy vow of silence, that inability to let whatever comes up, come out, does some good. Forget moving to San Franciso or Tibet or India to find yourself; I think you probably learn a fair amount about yourself and others by listening all the time – to what people around you are saying, and to your own thoughts. “Did I just think that or say it out loud?” is no longer a worry, and you get to actually ponder your thoughts without sharing them. Which gives you the chance, for the first time in what’s likely a long time, to figure out whether what you think is what you truly believe.
There’s a reason that Catholic Carthusian and Trappist monks, Hindu Swamis and Gurus, Gandhi and the highly self-reflective cease to speak. There’s insight to be gained through silence, and I wouldn’t mind having a piece of that. Sure, it would be annoying for your friends and the people around you, but it’s only for a year. I don’t have the will to try it on my own, but with $1,000,000 as a reward, I could definitely do this. And not to get all sappy and stuff, but I think it would probably be a pretty amazing experience. Also – I’d be rizzich. So, what’s not to accept?
P.S. I leave you with an old joke:
At a monastery high in the mountains, the monks have a rigid vow of silence. Only at Christmas, and only by one monk, and only with one sentence, is the vow allowed to be broken.
One Christmas, Brother Thomas, is allowed to speak and he says, “I like the mashed potatoes we have with the Christmas turkey!” and he sits down. Silence ensues for 365 days.
The next Christmas, Brother Michael gets his turn, and he says “I think the mashed potatoes are lumpy and I hate them!”
Once again, there’s days of silence. The following Christmas, Brother Paul rises and says, “I am fed up with this constant bickering!”