Synthesis: The Understanding We Can Gain from Silence McKenna Litynski

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PHIL 201: Professor Dorbolo
McKenna Litynski
Synthesis Paper

The Understanding We Can Gain from Silence


The world that we live in today is a very noisy place. Cars rush down streets and honk their horns impatiently; paper rustles in a businessman’s office; conversations fill restaurants; and headphones are pushed into ears and plugged into devices everywhere we go. When sound waves reach our eardrums, our mind tries to interpret and understand the world itself so that we can live and thrive. However, noisy and chaotic environments can cause stress and anxiety which can ultimately diminish our ability to take in information and truly understand the world around us. Noise pollution is affecting so many lives. This raises the question, what do our minds interpret and understand when there is no sound at all? What kind of understanding comes from silence? I plan to investigate these issues when I purposefully take the time to get away from as much noise as possible and analyze what understanding I gain from silence.


Is there ever a time when the world is silent? At first you might say, “Yes, when I sleep the world is silent.” I persuade you to ponder this question a bit further. When you sleep, there might be the sound of chirping crickets outside your window or the sound of air coming from your breathing. In an extremely quiet room, there will always be the sound of your beating heart. Sound fills every crack and crevice in this world. Everywhere we go there is matter. There are many different ways a person can define the word “silence” such as the complete absence of sound. Others argue that silence relates to the pauses in between speaking and not speaking. For me personally, silence is the escape from the stress and anxiety inducing noise that fills this modern world. I can never seem to get away from the sound of rushing cars or the sound of an airplane flying high in the sky. If I were to take a walk in the woods and there were no distracting noises, it would be just me and the world. There would be silence, which would allow me to break free from living in my head and give me the chance to live in the moment. To me, silence is not merely the absence of sound. It is a state of mind in which no distracting noises can break the bond between me and the natural world.


As a species, people are trying to understand more about the world every day. An infant learns and understands how to crawl. A child understands that he or she will not be able to get dessert if the broccoli on their plate is not eaten. Adults are trying to understand the most efficient method to balance career and family. All people are continuously learning and growing as human beings. I think the only way to gain more knowledge is through our personal interpretation, understanding, and perspective of the world. Understanding is often referred to as the comprehension of a thing or having insight or good judgement. I think the word “understand” relates to the reading, “The Principle of Charity.” According to Jon Dorbolo, the Principle of Charity is a philosophical concept that involves interpreting the ideas and statements of others in their strongest form. In the ancient texts of the Indian Vedas, it states, “There is one truth. The wise tell it in many ways.” We have the ability to use our judgements in order tounderstand others, but I do not think one truly understands or comprehends all aspects of the world. For instance, in the reading, “Wisdom Liter ture In Parallel,” Jon Dorbolo states that religions provide accounts of the origins of the universe. However, there are many religions and therefore there are many understandings and beliefs of the origin of the universe much like there are many understandings and beliefs for what the future will look like.


“Mooooooo!” That is the sound of a cow grazing in a field. “Choo-Choo!” That is the sound of a train rolling down rail road tracks. “Beep-Beep!” That is the sound of a driver trying to get to a destination. From the time I was conscious of sound until today, I have used sound as a way to understand and interpret my external surroundings so that I can live my life to the fullest. I can also use the senses of sight, touch, smell, and taste to construct an understanding of my external surroundings. While all these senses allow me to gain some understanding of the world, I also gain a deeper, more powerful understanding from something other than the senses. I believe the only way to gain a true understanding of who I am as a person is through silence. As a person who has studied and learned American Sign Language for the past six years and participated in both the deaf and Deaf communities, I know that sound is not the only path to understanding.


Silence can make a person uncomfortable, for when we escape from the excessive stimulation of the world, we find that we don’t know what to do with ourselves, what to think, or how to understand who we are personally. Silence is a state of mind and when we find silence, our minds are stilled. We are focused, we are mindful, and we are present in the moment. Even if all the sound occurs around us, we still have that inner silence. This can ultimately lead to personal growth and internal understanding. When I take the time to pay attention to the silence within me, I can pause and truly understand how I am feeling, and I can find a deeper connection within myself. When I push aside all the loud sounds that consume my life, I can unlock the potential personal growth within my soul and discover what I did not know about myself a few seconds ago. I can realize that the reality and answers that I had been searching was not out there, but right in my soul. Realities are still lurking beneath the surface of my skin. When I choose to embrace silence, I might be able to truly know what it means to be alive. Once I peel away the layers of noise in my life, I will be able to know what I did not know before and understand what I did not think was possible in the present and future.


Is the silent mind necessary for getting some understanding? Messages are constantly sent to my brain that allow me to interpret and understand my perspective of the objects, people, and things around me. When I see a car, my mind interprets what it sees, smells, and touches. I can see the wheels and the driving wheel; taste and smell the bitter diesel exhaust that is released when it drives; and touch the metal that makes up its frame. When I look at my family I can see their beautiful faces; taste aftershave when I kiss my dad’s cheek; smell the laundry detergent on their clothes; and touch them as I give them a hug. While I do not believe that a silent mind is the only path to understanding, I do believe it gives me a new perspective on my external environment, and the environment is the starting point of knowledge.


If I turn around and look at the objects, people, and things around me without sounds, without the other four senses, and without words, I can be fully attentive to the place that I live in. There does not need to be any significance in what I am observing, the significance comes from the observation. That is, I do not need to purposely set out to observe anything, but let the information come to me. For example, I can look at the clouds (which typically are considered silent objects) and the clouds will tell me which directions the wind blows and whether I should bring my umbrella with me. By gathering the information that the clouds are telling me, I go beyond looking to seeing and understanding. When I detach from distractions, and just become aware of the physical and mental silence inside, I can awaken pure knowledge and pure understanding of peace, calm, and quiet in a world of overstimulation. This is how I reach my personal state of inner silence. Silence…understanding…two different philosophical concepts that can come together…as one!

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