OPINION

OKIE IN EXILE: Time for Silence

Bobby Neal Winters
Bobby Winters

Sometimes I put on YouTube while I am going through my email early in the morning just so there will be a sound. I got into this habit in June of 2017 while I was teaching Elementary Statistics down in Paraguay. Jean had been going to go with me, but my second grandson had just been born so there went that. I went down by myself and I got lonesome, very lonesome. The TV was mostly in Spanish so YouTube became my sole companion. 

There were times I became so hungry to hear English I began talking to myself while walking down the street. You kind of have to choose your moments for this or they might take you away.

All of this having been said, there is a lot of value in silence.

I’ve noticed that while there are times I need to have input from music, from audiobooks, from conversation for my writing process, there are times when all those things do is drive thought from my mind. The noise of audio input drowns out my internal dialog and my thoughts become sterile.

So if I am to write — and I must write — I must make time for silence.

Silence is useful. Silence is a real thing. I am not a musician at all, and while we usually think of music as being sound, silence is a part of it. In music, not only are there symbols for every note, they have symbols for measured silences between notes. They call them “rests.” 

Often rests denote periods where one musician stops playing for a while to allow others to do their bit. We need to have something like this for meetings, but that’s all I am going to say about that.

Not only do we need silence ourselves, there are times when we need to be silent. As someone who has made his living in higher education, let me say that I do know something about this. I was once in a meeting where someone spoke for ten minutes just to say that he didn’t have anything to say about the topic.

And that is a clue: If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything. You’d think that would come easy, but as illustrated in the anecdote above, it does not, at least not always.

If you’ve ever read James’ epistle — and if you haven’t I encourage you to — you may remember the passage in Chapter 3 about the tongue. We all understand — or should — the problem of gossip. But there is another aspect about control of the tongue that is worthy of consideration. This is the effect that the things we say have on us.  

A lot of people are afraid that hearing the wrong things might corrupt us. I won’t say that’s not a problem, but we do have the power to think about what we’ve heard and make up our own minds. Here the ego is a help. We can take something that is coming in our ear, hold it to the side, and weigh it to see whether we want to make it a part of ourselves.

But when we say something, our ego gets attached to it. Even when we’ve been proven wrong, it is easy to just double-down and stick with our mistake. As James says, “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.”

There is much to be said for keeping your mouth shut when you don’t know what you are talking about. There is also much to be said for changing your mind when you discover that you are wrong, but that is very, very hard. It is much better, perhaps, to be silent.

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. Search for him by name on YouTube.