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John Zerzan: Silence

Silence

"Silence used to be, to varying degrees, a means of isolation. Now it is the absence of silence that works to render today's world empty and isolating. Its reserves have been invaded and depleted. The Machine marches globally forward and silence is the dwindling place where noise has not yet penetrated.
Civilization is a conspiracy of noise, designed to cover up the uncomfortable silences. The silence-honoring Wittgenstein understood the loss of our relationship with it. The unsilent present is a time of evaporating attention spans, erosion of critical thinking, and a lessened capacity for deeply felt experiences. Silence, like darkness, is hard to come by; but mind and spirit need its sustenance."
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".... Nature cannot be definitively silenced, however, which perhaps goes a long way in explaining why some feel it must be destroyed. "There has been a silencing of nature, including our own nature," concluded Heidegger, and we need to let this silence, as silence, speak. It still does so often, after all, speak louder than words.
There will be no liberation of humans without the resurrection of the natural world, and silence is very pertinent to this assertion. The great silence of the universe engenders a silent awe, which the Roman Lucretius meditated upon in the 1st century BCE: "First of all, contemplate the clear, pure color of the sky, and all it contains within it: the stars wandering everywhere, the moon, the sun and its light with its incomparable brilliance. If all these objects appeared to mortals today for the first time, if they appeared to their eyes suddenly and unexpectedly, what could one cite that would be more marvelous than this totality, and whose existence man's imagination would less have dared to conceive?"
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"... Max Picard's description is almost a poem: "The forest is like a great reservoir of silence out of which the silence trickles in a thin, slow stream and fills the air with its brightness. The mountain, the lake, the fields, the sky - they all seem to be waiting for a sign to empty their silence onto the things of noise in the cities of men."
Silence is "not the mere absence of something else."[4] In fact, our longings turn toward that dimension, its associations and implications. Behind the appeals for silence lies the wish for a perceptual and cultural new beginning."
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" Silence is primary, summoning presence to itself; so it's a connection to the realm of origin."
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",,,The noise, like technology, must never retreat - and never does."
For Picard, nothing has changed human character so much as the loss of silence.  Thoreau called silence "our inviolable asylum," an indispensable refuge that must be defended.  Silence is necessary against the mounting sound. It's feared by manipulative mass culture, from which it remains apart, a means of resistance precisely because it does not belong to this world. Many things can still be heard against the background of silence; thus a way is opened, a way for autonomy and imagining."
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"... (As) Heidegger had it, there is a thinking deeper and more rigorous than the conceptual, and part of this involves a primordial link between silence and understanding."
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"Wittgenstein):: "Of that which one cannot speak, one should remain silent."]
Can silence be considered, approached, without reification, in the here and now? I think it can be an open, strengthening way of knowing, a generative condition. Silence can also be a dimension of fear, grief...., it is quite difficult to reify silence, to freeze it into any one non-living thing. At times the reality we interrogate is mute; an index of the depth of the still present silence? Wonder may be the question that best gives answers, silently and deeply.
"Silence is so accurate," said Mark Rothko,...."

"(Annie Dillard):: "At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, to the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening."

It is not only the natural world that is accessible via silence. Cioran indicated the secrets in the silence of things, deciding that "All objects have a language which we can decipher only in total silence."....."
"Native Americans seem to have always placed great value on silence and direct experience, and in indigenous cultures in general, silence denotes respect and self-effacement...."

"Silence reaches back to presence and original community, before the symbolic compromised both silence and presence. It predates what Levinas called "the unity of representation,"[25] that always works to silence the silence and replace it with the homelessness of symbolic structures. The Latin root for silence, silere, to say nothing, is related to sinere, to allow to be in a place. We are drawn to those places where language falls most often, and most crucially, silent. ....Beckett complains that "in the forest of symbols" there is never quiet, and longs to break through the veil of language to silence.....

"Our most embodied, alive-to-this-earth selves realize best the limits of language and indeed, the failure of the project of representation. In this state it is easiest to understand the exhaustion of language, and the fact that we are always a word's length from immediacy. .... For Thoreau, "as the truest society approaches always nearer to solitude, so the most excellent speech finally falls into silence."  Conversely, mass society banishes the chance of autonomy, just as it forecloses on silence............"

"Time increases in silence; it appears not to flow, but to abide. Various temporalities seem close to losing their barriers; past, present, future less divided. But silence is a variable fabric, not a uniformity or an abstraction. Its quality is never far from its context, just as it is the field of the non-mediated. Unlike time, which has for so long been a measure of estrangement, silence cannot be spatialized or converted into a medium of exchange. This is why it can be a refuge from time's incessancy. ... Silence avoids this primary dynamic of domination."
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"We need a refusal of the roar of standardization, ..."
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'The one who is silent is)  the one who does not need a master for enlightenment."
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The deepest passions are nurtured in silent ways and depths. How else is respect for the dead most signally expressed, intense love best transmitted, our profoundest thoughts and visions experienced, the unspoiled world most directly savored? In this grief-stricken world, according to Max Horkheimer, we "become more innocent" through grief.  And perhaps more open to silence - as comfort, ally, and stronghold.
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John Zerzan: anti-civilization theorist, writer and speaker


The essay was only four pages long, plus a page of notes, and, out of respect to his subject matter, i think Zerzan tried not to waste too  many words..

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