Our century has made a religion of communication, enshrining the idea that we ought to be constantly on tap, endlessly engaged in some or other form of exchanging information and perpetually contributing our due quotient to the sum of nonstop chatter – as if communicating with each other were a moral good, and not merely so much white noise. Our phones have become our oracles. Instant messaging is our hotline to higher communion.
In silence we can find an assured retreat from the intolerable din, but it would be a mistake to think that the allure of silence is primarily that of passive withdrawal, like a child sulking because they don’t want to play with all the other kids. Silence is not what is left once the chatter has died away: it is not a residue, or vacated space. Instead, like the darkness of night, it is a gateway into richness and depth, mystery and resonance. In the coinage of Frauds Bacon, “silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom”.
In thinking about the virtues of silence, I am reminded of the writer Sarah Maidand’s lived experiment, in which she embarked on a quest to rediscover those qualities of silence that have become impossible to access amid the crashing cacophony of modern urban life. What I love about her memoir is that it makes no bones about the difficulty of this journey into silence, which she documents in A Book of Silence. Maitland missed friends and frivolity, the fertilising properties of conversation, not least the refined palliative that is BBC Radio 4, and yet, over the long seasons of her voluntary exile from society, she gradually came to learn the value of truly listening: to her inner voice, her doubts and intuitions, the workings of pre-rational thought. And she learned to attend anew to the world around her, finding real joy, for example, in engaging more viscerally with nature (everything from gardening, to noticing that so many of the forces that our lives depend on are silent: gravity, electricity, light, tides, the unheard spinning of the Earth on its axis). The biggest surprise, writes Maitland, was discovering “the energy of silence”.
The way the sun rises, cresting the mountains, piercing the clouds, chasing the darkness. It is easy to miss it, day after day, year after year, that unmistakable warmth. Bringer of life. Guide to the weary traveler. The lost sailer. The blooming flower.
We owe so much to her warmth. Taken for granted. Ignored. Passed up.
It only takes a moment. To take it all in. To be grateful. One moment out of thousands.
If only we notice her warmth, the life she brings, can we share it. For she too needs to rest. And when she does and the darkness creeps back in, it is up to us to be the light. The warmth. The guide to the weary traveler. The lost soul.
There is an emptiness in the air. A void. A friction that shouldn’t exist but does. Filling every space it finds. it suffocates. The air doesn’t feel cold, but is absent any warmth, as if hope was forbidden. In exile. Consumed by silence, unable to scream, meaningless as the echoes would be.
To be vulnerable. Afraid. Not of danger, but of your own existence. To fear yourself and not others. Afraid. Alone. Empty. A quiet desperation.
Life has no meaning without death, and death is meaningless without life. To wander aimlessly to the end; to breath emptiness into the void. To stumble and falter. Hoping. Dreaming.
To fill the void with philosophy. Unable to ease the friction. To understand more only to understand less. In the meaningless echoes are a spark of hope. A hope of meaning. A warmth in the void of existence. However elusive. Fleeting. Out of reach. Onwards we stumble. Into the void. In silence.
It is with great struggle that we pursue an honest and altruistic meaning for our lives within this world. We strive towards greatness, dreaming of feelings of elation. Heavy hearts are drowned in the sorrows, exile and loneliness of intimate human connection; connections that drift further and further apart.
A soul divided, gasping for air, fighting to survive. We watch in desperation as human flesh is devoured by itself; ever consuming. Driven by unnatural systems, we try to conform, shedding humanity with every outwards step.
Our screams are fleeting in the cold night; echoes of future past. fearing. frozen. empty.
We wait for our final emancipation, longing, praying, to escape. To be liberated from ourselves.
While I have always been a fan of Neill Blomkamps previous work (District 9, Elysium), his latest movie, CHAPPiE, takes good cinema and story telling alot futher. The themes present within CHAPPiE and the questions it asks are refreshing in amongst the formulaic and predictable cinema that exists today.
Most of society believes our species is the only one that matters, the only one worth existing, superior to everything else. We struggle with anything different; a xenophobia that throughout history has struggled with race, religion and sexuality. We consider ourselves unique and superior as a result of an unfounded belief that we are the only species with consciousness. If anything threatens this idea, we wage wars and enforce servitude for the purpose of dominance and superiority.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau points out in the opening of The Social Contract, ‘Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains’, which only emphases the restriction that learnt behaviour has in comparison to natural instinct. As highlighted within the frames of CHAPPiE, the innate behaviour is to care for all living existence, not destroy it. Throughout the story the only imposition of violence on others is for superiority and dominance, carried out by those who have only known violence. CHAPPiE successfully explores the idea that violence is learnt behaviour, with his innocence corrupted by humanity and its superiority complex.
Most cinema that introduces artificial intelligence does so with the view that it will cause the end of human existence, while Blomkamp does the opposite, making the statement that the biggest threat to human existence is a degraded state of humanity. We shouldn’t be fearful of others, we should be fearful of ourselves.
One of the more compelling scenes within the movie is where Deon is having a personal conversation with Chappie, who is resting with his back against the wall exhibiting human body language. As Chappie develops throughout the story, you begin to care for him, you get worried, you feel for him. If you didn’t feel these things you need to take a strong hard look at your humanity and your empathy.
On days like today, days that everyone has from time to time, we need some light to ease the dark settling into our lungs …
… Sarah Kay and spoken word poetry is always a good place to start.
To find a perfection in a moment, when the only thing that matters is her, and you, and the intimacy. The world can keep burning but in that moment, there exists a cosmic alignment of everything that is right in this existence. To know this, to fight for this, is why we exist
(found in my notebook, dated 20 July 2013.)
There is an irony in finding solace and understanding in your own work, written in times gone by.
We read to find an understanding in texts and words of those infinity wiser, yet sometimes the most profound and surprising is our own; words written in pain, in dire understanding. Wisdom we found in ourselves once, lost, and found again.
(found in my notebook, dated 20 July 2013.)
The night is only dark if you let it. It should never be as black as the rain on a cold winters eve. The night is our own, and shall never be lost in the abyss. We own the night, and we bring it warmth and light.
(found in my notebook, dated 15 July 2012.)
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. Friedrich Nietzsche (1886) Beyond Good and Evil
For a long time we find ourselves trying to understand monsters, to give reason to the past. In doing so, without realising it, we become the very same monster. It can take months to notice the monster that reflects in the mirror, slowly forming into our own demons. When we finally choose to unshackle the chains, removed from home, a hope reminds us of who we are. An unexpected face, a beautiful smile; soft hands that wash away the grime, uncovering our heart.
We know that a time will come, when we will return to a place where demons roam. To battle them on our own …
… In hope they don’t consume us again.