Silence and the Notion of the Commons


Avoiding-the-Silence1Franklin’s essay describes the importance of silence. She explains that we have become so accustomed to noise that we don’t feel the need for silence anymore. She also makes the argument that the sounds we hear are manipulating and influencing us. Even though Franklin would like us to experience silence more often, she is at least hoping that we would help the silence be heard.

“When one thinks about the concept of silence, one notices that there has to be somebody who listens before you can say there is silence” (Franklin 642). I find this quote interesting because I never thought about it before. Like most people, I always assumed that silence is just the absence of sound. I never thought that it also requires someone to listen to it. The fact that silence needs to be heard reminds me of the well-known question of, “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there, does it make a sound?”

“The strength of collective silence is probably one of the most powerful spiritual forces” (Franklin 643). I found this quote really relatable. Individual silence is good, but there’s something special and powerful about being with a group of silent people. Because then not only do you get to reflect and meditate on yourself, but you also get to reflect and meditate on others. It’s almost as if the silence is giving you this eerie energy and inspiration to think about things you have never thought of before.

“Things considered in the past to be normal or ordinary become rare or extraordinary, while those things once considered rare and unusual become normal and routine. Flying is no longer a big deal, but a handmade dress or a home-cooked meal may well be special” (Franklin 645). Once again, the truth in this quote is somewhat unnerving. It’s crazy to think that things that may have seem impossible in the past has become a normal everyday thing to us, and yet the simple everyday things of the past are impossible to find in the present. However, when we do find those rare glimpses of the past, we hold on to them because we know how valuable they are.

“There is the silence in which you courteously engage so that I might be heard: in order for one to be heard all the others have to be silent” (Franklin 643). The part that confuses me about this quote is that if someone is talking, then would there be true silence? It’s true that the listener is silent, but the listener does not hear silence. If we use the definition of “silence” given in the beginning of the essay, then the silence described in this situation is not true silence.

“Allowing openness to the unplannable, to the unprogrammed, is the core of the strength of silence” (Franklin 644). How would we allow openness to the unplannable? Is it really as simple as being silent and listening to silence? Or are you supposed to make room for the unplannable in your life and schedule?


Silence and the Notion of the Commons by Ursula Franklin





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