The Intricacy of Silence

K. strode to his computer to play music so as to fill the silence into which he had placed himself. He brought his notebook with him, curious to see what lay forgotten in the pages. With a few mouse clicks, the keys of a piano played out through his speakers and soothed the heaviness such silence inspired: fine in small doses, too much silence was perhaps uncomfortable for anyone, and with a pained conscience it was especially so for K. Perhaps that’s the reason the world is kept so noisy—better to curb inclination toward reflection, which only leads one to confront that which is not known, which so much outweighs what one hopes they’re sure of. This, at least, was why K. felt so heavy, in silence.

So too in Vienna K. had noticed a similar heaviness descend upon him, when he went to visit that imperial city’s churches; when he surmised that what he was feeling—not so far from the concentration of an omniscient deity within the hallowed walls—was the contrived reverence for the excellence confronting those who wandered in off the street, who found themselves suddenly under vaulted ceilings so tall as to culminate at least thirty metres above their marvelling eyes. Regarding the ceiling’s murals, the vibrancy alone of the ageless paint bespoke the heavens and, though they were too far away for such details to be appreciated, one nonetheless discerned that the brushes touched to those high concave stones traced figures of the most delicate contours. Walking further into the nave of the church, unconscious of their suddenly slowed and muffled pace, these tourists’ ricocheting glances touched upon effigies of sages from some remote past, who were yet set in stone to withstand the passage of time—what most think of as inescapable. Why exactly this had been done, most were not ready, or able, to articulate, and perhaps they shied away from these figures who, with steady and piercing gaze, and since time immemorial, seemed to confront any and all who walked before them, and then again, those who walked after.

Their eyes, even if only inorganic facsimile, seemed to communicate a lifetime dedication to uncovering truth, and their presence ensured that the unsuspecting tourists maintained the reverential silence they were not at all used to. A silence which detaches one from the noise of the world, and replaces it with questions. Replaces it with the need to accept one’s ignorance in the face of saints who—one knew implicitly—felt so much at ease, within silence. It was a challenge for all who entered to strive for the same, and K., like most everyone challenged thus, melted, feeling totally inadequate for the task.

But, then again, hadn’t each craftsman behind every detail of the church’s architecture been given the same task? They too must have begun hesitantly, under the shadow of doubt. Yet they had obviously risen to the challenge: every lattice and every statue’s face was imbued with an ineffable sublimity, and it could only have been the artisans’ religious inclination which made them sensitive enough to ensure this was so. Reaching beyond themselves, ever higher, they made perfect the smallest details with a pained and loving touch. Thus it was from such humbled souls that the elaborate structure of the church had been crafted, and it was now testament to whatever they had found when looking within, when silent, when pensive; searching for something which could guide their hand. Here, made manifest in what material they were given, was an homage to what each discovered.

Many people found themselves taking a seat in the rows of pews, almost gingerly, overcome by the weight of the silence, because the longer they dwelt therein, the more it seemed the space opened up their thoughts to consider what might lay, somehow, outside time, and with this in mind the room suddenly teemed with illustrations alluding to the nature of the eternal. One didn’t know where to look, so perhaps bowed their head, their gaze on the back of the pew in front of them, as they took a moment to recollect themselves.

K. looked up from his notebook and, reaching over to his computer, turned off the music. An artisan in his own right, he sought communion with something beyond himself, and though he didn’t know what he might find—he had faith he would find something—silence, in his experience, seemed to be both the invitation and the event.

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