Silence is the lack of audible sound or presence of sounds of very low intensity. By analogy, the word silence can also refer to any absence of communication, including in media other than speech. Silence is also used as total communication, in reference to non verbal communication and spiritual connection. Silence also refers to no sounds uttered by anybody in a room or area. Silence is an important factor in many cultural spectacles, as in rituals.
In discourse analysis, speakers use brief absences of speech to mark the boundaries of prosodic units. Silence in speech can be hesitation, stutters, self-correction—or deliberate slowing of speech to clarify or aid processing of ideas. These are short silences. Longer pauses in language occur in interactive roles, reactive tokens, or turn-taking.
According to cultural norms, silence can be positive or negative. For example, in a Christian Methodist faith organization silence and reflection during the sermons might be appreciated by the congregation, while in a Southern Baptist church, silence might mean disagreement with what is being said, or perhaps disconnectedness from the congregated community.
||This article may contain original research. (May 2011)|
Placing the index finger in front of closed lips is the most widely recognized gesture of silence. The gesture can be used to demand silence without raising one's own voice. The rose, sometimes depicted clasped by or on top of closed lips, is another well-recognized symbol of silence stemming from various mythologies.
In Western cultures, it is sometimes difficult to interpret the meaning of a person who is silent (not speaking). It can mean anger, hostility, disinterest, or other emotions. Because of this, many in some Western cultures feel uneasy when one party is silent, and usually try their best to fill up the silence with small talk.
Music inherently depends on silence in some form or another to distinguish other periods of sound and allow dynamics, melodies and rhythms to have greater impact. For example, most music scores feature rests denoting periods of silence.
Some composers take the use of silence in music to an extreme. 4′33″ is an experimental musical work by avant-garde composer John Cage. Though first performed on the piano, the piece was composed for any instrument or instruments and is structured in three movements. The length of each movement is not fixed by the composer, but the total length of the combination of three movements is.
Argumentative silence is the rhetorical practice of saying nothing when an opponent in a debate expects something to be said. Poorly executed, it can be offensive, like refusing to answer a direct question. However, well-timed silence can throw an opponent off and give the debater the upper hand.
An argument from silence (Latin: argumentum ex silentio) is an argument based on the assumption that someone's silence on a matter suggests (an informal fallacy) that person's ignorance of the matter. In general, ex silentio refers to the claim that the absence of something demonstrates the proof of a proposition.
The right to silence is a legal protection enjoyed by people undergoing police interrogation or trial in certain countries. The law is either explicit or recognized in many legal systems. Violation of the right to quiet enjoyment is a common law tort.
Joseph Jordania suggested that in social animals (including humans) silence can be a sign of danger. Many social animals produce seemingly haphazard sounds which are known as contact calls. These are a mixture of various sounds, accompanying the group's everyday business (for example, foraging, feeding), and they are used to maintain audio contact with the members of the group. Some social animal species communicate the signal of potential danger by stopping contact calls and freezing, without the use of alarm calls, through silence. Charles Darwin wrote about this in relation with wild horse and cattle. Jordania suggested that human humming could have been a contact method that early humans used to avoid silence. According to his suggestion, humans find prolonged silence distressing (suggesting danger to them). This may help explain why lone humans in relative sonic isolation feel a sense of comfort from humming, whistling, talking to themselves, or having the TV/radio on.
"Silence" in spirituality is often a metaphor for inner stillness. A silent mind, freed from the onslaught of thoughts and thought patterns, is both a goal and an important step in spiritual development. Such "inner silence" is not about the absence of sound; instead, it is understood to bring one in contact with the divine, the ultimate reality, or one's own true self, one's divine nature. Many religious traditions imply the importance of being quiet and still in mind and spirit for transformative and integral spiritual growth to occur. In Buddhism, the descriptions of silence and allowing the mind to become silent are implied as a feature of spiritual enlightenment. In Hinduism, including the teachings of Advaita Vedanta and the many paths of yoga, teachers insist on the importance of silence, Mauna, for inner growth. Perkey Avot, the Jewish Sages guide for living, states that, "Tradition is a safety fence to Torah, tithing a safety fence to wealth, vows a safety fence for abstinence; a safety fence for wisdom..... is silence." In some traditions of Quakerism, silence is an actual part of worship services and a time to allow the divine to speak in the heart and mind. Eckhart Tolle says that silence can be seen either as the absence of noise, or as the space in which sound exists, just as inner stillness can be seen as the absence of thought, or the space in which thoughts are perceived.
Silent Prayer in Hinduism
A common way to remember a tragic incident and to remember the victims or casualties of such an event is a commemorative moment of silence. This usually means one or more minutes of silence, in which one is supposed to not speak, but instead remember and reflect on the event. A commemorative silence may be held at a workplace, a school, and similar institutions. Sometimes a government announces a commemorative silence of a specific period, at a specific time that people are encouraged (but not forced) to honor. One such example is after the events of 9/11, and on its anniversary several years afterward, when many governments around the world announced 3 minutes of silence in respect for the victims.
- Macedonia, J. (1986). Individuality in the contact call of the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta). American Journal of Primatology, 11, 163-179
- Charles Darwin (2004). The Descent of Men. London: Penguin Books. pg. 123.
- Jordania, J. (2009). Times to Fight and Times to Relax: Singing and Humming at the Beginnings of Human Evolutionary History. Kadmos, 1, 272–277
- See Stephen Palmquist, Ontology and the Wonder of Silence, Part Four of The Tree of Philosophy (Hong Kong: Philopsychy Press, 2000. See also "Silence as the Ultimate Fulfillment of the Philosophical Quest", Journal Hekmat Va Falsafeh, (Journal of Wisdom and Philosophy), Issue 6 (August 2006), pp.67–76.
- Britain Yearly Meeting, "Quaker Faith and Practice" Third Edition, 2005 (?), sections 2.01, 2.12–17 etc., The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, London, ISBN 0-85245-375-2 / ISBN 0-85245-374-4
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