Day of Silence

From a Tampa Preparatory Middle School assignment, January 2005:


Silence is as full of potential wisdom and wit
as the unhewn marble of great sculpture.
–Aldous Huxley

From Benedictines to Buddhists, those seeking enlightenment have chosen self-imposed periods of silence in which to foster insight, understanding, and awareness.

One result of enlightenment is creativity. Influential French mathematician Henri Poincaré gave a lecture in 1908 identifying four stages of creativity: 1) difficult, preliminary labor, often seemingly fruitless; 2) quiescence, incubation or gestation when the unconscious mind works; 3) inspiration or illumination, producing a sense of conviction and delight; and 4) verification when the results of the creative process are tested for usefulness.

If we foster our enlightenment, we foster our creativity. Silence enhances quiescence, an integral part of the creative process.

In silence man can most readily preserve his integrity.
–Meister Eckhart

From noon on Sunday, January 30, 2005, to noon on Monday, January 31, 2005, you are invited to join your classmates and teachers in a day of silence. During that time, you would not speak. You may communicate non-verbally and in brief written notes. You are urged to avoid writing letters or in journals. At noon on January 31, if you are in an English class, you will take out a journal and write for twenty minutes. You will begin to record what you observed and what realizations you achieved.

The purposes are
1) to enhance the working of the creative process in ourselves.
2) to observe what happens and what doesn’t, both within ourselves and with others, when we choose not to speak.
3) to consider the power of words spoken and written, unspoken and unwritten.
4) to observe the contemplative and/or meditative effects of not speaking.
5) to join in an ancient tradition and practice of seeking inner wisdom through silence.

To everything there is a season…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.
–Ecclesiastes 2:32, Bible

Note: Ms. Giles has observed several days of silence, her first during the summer of ’01. She did not speak, did not write, and carried a note in her pocket reading: “I am observing a day of silence. I appreciate your understanding.” She only used the note once, ironically, with a Tampa Prep student she met while attending a movie. As a result of this exercise and other days of silence, she has had many insights. She will be glad to share them with you and to hear yours after your day of silence.

Silence is the perfectest herald of joy.
–William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

The final version of A Day of Silence was the result of the collaboration of many teachers at Tampa Prep, in particular, Mrs. Carlson-Jones, Mrs. Embry, Mr. Facciolo, Mr. Fowler, Ms. Giles, Mrs. Holway, Mr. Morrison and Ms. Smiekel.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
–Max Ehrmann, Desiderata