At the end of the school year, we studied a short story called The Sound of Annie’s Silence. It was written by a UK author named Phyllis Fair Cowell and it revealed the unlikely bond between two high school girls. Annie was mute and the narrator became her babysitter. She thought the job would be easy until she was disturbed by the silence while in Annie’s presence.
This caused a variety of lively discussions about silence itself. We brought out the fact that in this high-tech age filled with sounds and beeps, few are really comfortable with silence. Each moment must be filled with some type of noise or chatter.
We are usually talking, texting, emailing, listening to YouTube or television or having some external engagement with our devices. In contrast, total silence it simply too stark and surreal for most people and like the narrator, we immediately find something to fill the void and rush to hear some sounds. When the young girl telling the story could not deal with Annie’s silence, she grabbed their coats and headed outdoors for a walk to the park.
Yet, silence can be beautiful for those of us who are older and more seasoned. When I demanded a totally quiet classroom, one student later remarked, “Wow! I got so much done.” I laughed to myself and thought, “Well, yeah.”
At one point, I felt like making a recording saying, “Stop talking!.” or “Voices are off! or ”Silencio!” [for the bilingual classes] I believe that several students learned that silence can be a wondrous event. Thinking is allowed. Energy is preserved. Work is completed.
More should simply hush and listen. Perhaps, the answer to a long-standing question is sitting right there, waiting for us to become silent enough to hear it.
“Silence is true wisdom’s best reply.” Euripides
Lynn M. June 8, 2016