The Genius of Silence

They say that people who don’t talk much are usually more intelligent, and I happen to agree. They tend to save their words for the things that matter, and when they do finally speak, it can be quite deep and profound. They tend to be men and women of action, not words, and there is a simple reason for this: all this time when everyone else was talking, they were listening. They were learning. They were synthesizing an answer and a solution, taking in different points of view into consideration. The quiet people are the thinkers of our world. 

The loud people on the other hand, are the ones who are more likely to listen to themselves only. They are less open-minded. They are much less concerned with discussing and more preoccupied with subjecting others to their verbal violence. This is why I was never fond of debate clubs, and I find that some people in the legal profession are in it for the wrong reasons. A conversation is not a contest, it is not a sport. It is an opportunity to learn, as well as bring people together.

Then there are those who suffer from the “chattering monkey” syndrome: they are not actually thinking but aimlessly ruminating, going over the same points again and again, without actually processing them. And they are not really interested in finding a solution or a conclusion to the debate, because for there there never was one. They are just there for the sport: looking for an audience, someone that will make them feel important. Many untalented psychotherapists know this well, and have found out that the best patients are the verbose ones. This reduces the psychotherapits’ role to simply nodding in agreement for an hour and repeating back what they’ve heard. They earn accolades from their patients, and maintain both their appointment books and their wallets full.

A notch or two above monkeys in terms of IQ, humans are indeed, the ultimate chattering monkey of this planet. Jumping from branch to branch, talking over each other, we are the animal that everyone else in the jungle just wants to shut the fuck up. Birds listen intently for a response from the other edge of the valley, before replaying their song. Whales roam the oceans for a mating partner patiently, responding to signals that they can receive from as far as 4,000 miles away. Plants and fungi quietly send chemical messages, being as clearcut and succinct as they possibly can, whether it is a warning, an invitation, or a lethal trojan horse. Humans on the other hand, use communication mostly to confuse each other: polluting communication channels with half-truths, fake news, targeted propaganda and false advertising. This is not a treetop symphony but an asynchronous cacophony of shitposting. It is yet another sign of a species on its way to self-destruction. As the bickering continues during the polycrisis over zoom calls, nature stays mostly silent. Because it knows it will have the last word.

If only we could shut up, we could tune into the most important sound that exists: the rustling of leaves as they collectively quiver against the wind of change that is sweeping the planet’s climate. It is almost the same sound that the ocean makes. In fact, if your close your eyes you’ll hear the same message: whether a million waves or a million leaves, it is an omen that the Earth’s forces are getting restless. Our planet is rioting. Our climate is angry. Our oceans are fuming. They all demand complete and utter system change, right now. The rustling, or psithurism, which in Greek means whisper, is only the beginning. The Earth’s voices are getting louder, getting ready to produce their last response, and their only response in this debate.

George is a chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , read his booksor join his mailing list

5 thoughts on “The Genius of Silence

  1. My living space is in the middle of a field, an occasional piece of farm equipment might be heard. The silence is beautiful. One night I walked off into the field and, I swear, I heard Mother Nature screaming. I cried and begged for forgiveness.

  2. I love these lines they, speak volumes loudly. “This is not a treetop symphony but an asynchronous cacophony of shitposting. It is yet another sign of a race on its way to self-destruction.” Can I use them? Due credit of course.

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