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Cambodia Summer Program.

The Necessity of Silence

Sitting in a dimly lit restaurant surrounded by zooming trucks and constant raindrops, I reflect on the true value of silence.

What does it mean to be silent? As I ponder this question, I quickly realized that most of us have no answer – mainly because we’ve never been in silence before. There’s always something, whether it be a Youtube video, an Instagram notification, a fresh tweet, or another text message. Whenever we seem to be quiet and alone, we never actually are. In a way it collapses the distances between people, but it creates widening trenches between us and our own mind.

For the first (and admittedly probably also the last) time in my life, I was voluntarily silent for 48 hours. Our extremely talkative and enthusiastic group of Khambo 2018, made up of 12 slightly confused teenagers, embarked on this incredible journey with me, and through this supreme Noble Silence found a magnitude of different things about themselves and the world around us.

Gestures, there’s only so much you can express with gestures. Spoken word, the fastest way to communicate, swarms through everybody’s daily lives. Conversations, on the phone or in person, are always a major component of my life. I love to talk and I love to listen. But what I’ve never realized is that most of the time I speak to escape silence.

Since when has silence become such a formidable thing? Since when have we tried everything we possibly can? Since when is it awkward to talk and not to talk? Since when have we lost ourselves in the noise?

We run, run, and run away from silence, in an effort to escape ourselves. Afraid of the inward conversation, we chase after outward conversations. But in that never-ending chase, we ignore our need for inner reflection. Peace comes from within, but how can you reach inner peace if you refuse to talk to yourself?

48 hours of going in and out of meditation made me ponder the significance of my existence. One small star in the Milky Way, one single drop of water in the South China Sea. What can I amount to? What do I wish to amount to? What will I amount to? How should I spend each second of my life? How am I spending each second of my life? All questions I still cannot answer with ease, but the answers all lie in self-reflection. And I think these 48 hours helped me gain perspective and clarity on these ultimate questions. Without this chance, this silence, I would have never even thought of asking these questions. And without a question, there would not be answers.

Silence creates much needed distance, and through distancing oneself from the world, one grows closer to oneself. We need silence, just as much as we need conversations.