Tagsilence

Dispatch from the Trenches #5

Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”

How to Be Polite

There is so much good stuff here. While I have few friends, the ones I’ve made without the aid of geography or other people have been through listening.

I’ll sit and listen for hours. I’ll soak up information and stories without speaking a word, other than a nod or acknowledgment I am still listening and interested.

I don’t often have much to say. Unless you touch on a topic I (possibly unknowingly) care deeply about. Then the words come pouring out. Most of the time, I am happy to sit and listen. I love to listen.

I learn so much that way. Now if I could only retain half of what I’ve listened to. I could take over the world.


Charred man

The incinerated man stared back at Jarecke through the camera’s viewfinder, his blackened arm reaching over the edge of the truck’s windshield. Jarecke recalls that he could “see clearly how precious life was to this guy, because he was fighting for it. He was fighting to save his life to the very end, till he was completely burned up. He was trying to get out of that truck.”

The War Photo No One Would Publish

The face of war is ugly. Back in the early 90s in Iraq, this photo never saw the pages of media in the US. But not because of military censorship. American media did that just fine on their own.


The quiet scares me. So, I make my own noise, plugging little smooth white plastic buds into my ears to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and loud music. It helps me work, I tell my coworkers. It keeps me sane, I tell myself. It keeps the silence away.

The Silence and I

I will go to great lengths to find silence. I will see out quiet and solitude in even the busiest of places.
I will create it with headphones. I will sneak away to an overlooked corner or nook. I will wander off under (false) pretense.
I will linger too long in elevators or stairwells. If there’s a roof access, that’s a gold mine.
Silence is elusive. I arm myself and seek it out. It’s a better prize than any stuffed head on my wall.


Train Mode

Every morning I enjoy Train Mode. Each work day, I wait for a bus. Which I take to a train. Where I ride underground for about 35 minutes until I arrive at work. Then I rise zombie-like from beneath the ground and emerge to the light.

Each morning my mind races with all the things I could be, should be, might be doing. And then I don’t. I do a single thing.

When I step into a train, my phone becomes an island. I turn off all wireless communications. My phone is adrift in a sea of silence. No email. No social. No interaction.

I open Kindle. I read. I enjoy the blissful silence and focus of words on a page.

This past week I’ve read with my phone in one hand and a paper notebook in the other. I’ve written thoughts and pondered questions. I’ve interacted with the book in a real way.

Not passively reading, but reading to remember. Reading to know. I’ve ignored the rest of the world and for that short train ride, it’s just me, the words, and my thoughts. And it gets to happen again at day’s end. Where I wait for a train. To a bus. To home. All without the phone making a peep. Unless I put on music to drown out the song of public transit.

And it’s blissful.

Vacation Silence

The single thing I have enjoyed most on this vacation has been the silence. As I sit here, the only sound I hear is the whirring of the ceiling fan and the light tap tapping of my fingers on the iPhone screen.

Beyond that, there is silence.

Sunset on the beach

Much of this trip has been spent sitting on the beach, listening to the waves crash and nearby children shriek with delight, reading a book.

I’ve sat with my wife side by side on the beach reading. Every. Now and again reaching for a drink in the cooler. Sometimes reaching over to grasp her hand or caress her shoulder and say *I Love You.*

As I eventually getting warm enough to put the book down and venture into the warm ocean waters, I float among the waves, listening to the sounds of the ocean. I’ve not been happier in a long time.

This was a much-needed vacation. And I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. And most of all, I’ve enjoyed the quiet.

The elusive, blissful quiet.

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