On the Nature of Silence or Musings of the Inner Theatre
Posted by Randoclese, Jan 27, 2010. 850 views. ID = 3140
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|Just ram whatever finger fits best deep into both of your favorite ear canals. |
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If one were to consider the nature of silence, it could not be done without consideration of sound. We don’t define silence as a thing, but rather the absence of a thing. With a definition like that, does a thing called silence really exist? Can a thing be defined exclusively by the absence of something else? The ancient Greek philosophers didn’t think so. Consider their thoughts on vacuum, or the absence of nearly everything. Plato found the idea of a vacuum inconceivable and he could not conceive a “form” of a vacuum. Similarly, Aristotle considered the creation of a vacuum impossible — nothing could not be something, he postulated. Later Greek philosophers thought that a vacuum could perhaps exist outside the cosmos (beyond the limits of everything that exists), but certainly not within it. So let’s do a little experiment, you and I. I promise it won’t hurt or have lasting ill effects.
As you may know, sound waves traveling through the ear canal will hit the tympanic membrane, or eardrum. This wave information travels across the air-filled middle ear cavity via a series of delicate bones: the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). Without going too much deeper into it, the mechanical motions of these tiny bones generate signals among the hair cells, cochlea, and nerve endings in the middle ear that are interpreted by the brain as sounds. Here comes the interesting part. We have a fun and easy way to experience something that arguably doesn’t exist.
I want you to put in a pair of soft foam earplugs, or stuff some tissues into your ears. In a pinch, just ram whatever finger fits best deep into both of your favorite ear canals. That’s good; don’t feel silly, provided no one is watching. If it makes you feel better, I’ll do it too. Now, having eliminated, or at least attenuated, the sensation of sound, you are now experiencing a reasonable estimate of silence. My question to you now is this; “As you read through these lines of prose, whose voice are you hearing and where does it come from?” Unless you are one of those who can only read until your lips get tired, it’s probably not your own voice. Not aloud at any rate. Is it something you call your internal voice? Your Muse, perhaps. There’s a voice inside your head, right now, narrating, as you read along. Do you hear it? (nod in the affirmative). How is that possible, you might ask, in the absence of sound?
I will tell you the great secret of the sound of one hand clapping, or the tree falling in the forest. It is my voice in your head. That’s right, I am rambling about inside your brain at this very moment. Do you want me to prove it’s my voice and not your own? Ok then, if it’s your own voice, then narrate the next sentence in this thought, to yourself. (Long pause). What’s the matter, are you at a loss? That’s because you have no idea what the next sentence will be, but I do. Let’s try another example. Provide the next number in the sequence 13, 21, 34, …... Give up? It’s 55. If you didn’t know that, how could this be your voice? It’s clearly not your voice you’re hearing in your head, but mine.
Now listen carefully, I want you to remove the stuffing from your ears and rejoin the world of sounds. That’s better isn’t it? Funny thing though, you can still hear my voice in your head! It seems like you almost can’t get rid of me. Ha ha! That’s right, because while you were being distracted by esoteric arguments about the nature of silence and the biology of your ear holes, I was busily introducing myself to your unprotected brain and making a quite comfortable home in it. You have unwittingly allowed me to enter your brain via your eyes and to establish my voice in it. You weren’t even aware that it was happening. This condition is permanent.
From now on, whenever you read the newspaper, a book, or website, loveletter or magazine, you can be confident that it is I, Randoclese, who narrates it for you. Creepy isn't it? Still, I hope you enjoy the experience. I’ve been told I have a pleasant reading voice and above average diction. I trust you will find my presence in your head a pleasant one. We can become friends, in an odd sort of way. Or not. It’s your choice of course, but there’s nothing you can do about it in any event. Did you hear me? “Yes, Randoclese, I hear, understand, and obey you.” Good. Very good. You’ll be hearing from me again very soon, I should think. In fact, if you care to look up “Fibonacci sequence”, I can tell you all about them. Just a suggestion. Copyright 2010 Randoclese. All rights reserved. FifteenMinutesOfFiction.com has been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work. For permission to reprint this item, please contact the author.
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