My song today is ’Silence is Golden’. This was a song recorded by the American vocal group the ‘Four Seasons’. The song was co-written by group producer Bob Crewe and group member Bob Gaudio. ‘Philip’s Records’ released the song in 1964 as the B-side of the U.S. Number 1 single ‘Rag Doll’, which was also written by Crewe/Gaudio.
British band ‘The Tremeloes’ later recorded a sound-alike version using the same arrangement, which reached the top position on the ‘UK Singles Chart’ on 18 May 1967, where it stayed for three weeks. Guitarist Rick West sang lead vocal on ‘Silence Is Golden’. In the U.S., ‘Epic Records’ released the single, which reached Number 11 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart and was one of the top 100 songs of 1967. The song sold one million copies globally, earning ‘gold disc’ status. ‘The Tremeloes’ also recorded an Italian version, ‘E in Silenzio’. The song was also covered by Swedish singer Jim Jidhed (in English) in 1989.
My research indicated that the origin of this common saying can be found in ancient Egyptian manuscripts. In 1831, the poet, Thomas Carlyle, translated it into English. He wrote that the meaning of ‘Silence is Golden’ is closely allied to the concept that ‘Speech is Silver’. Hence, as gold is worth more than silver, so silence is worth more than speech.
How better would the world be if that truth could be flown within each National Flag and the leaders of the world would ‘listen to’ more than ‘talk at’ each other? How often have we all spoken without forethought and wished that hour words could be taken back in unuttered form? Take President Trump for example and his tendency to publicly pronounce to all the world and its neighbour his own view before he allows his brain to process the logic of what he is about to say. Had he counted to ten more often before he spoke, never in a million years would he have advocated the drinking of bleach to combat Coronavirus!
There have been many times when I was so angry or annoyed about something that another person did to me or said about me, and I was sorely tempted to respond immediately by either word, text message, or face-to-face contact. At such times I have learned to take the deepest of breaths and to not proceed with my intended action until I have had sufficient time to assess the pros and cons of what I proposed to say or do. So often in the past at such moments, I have been advised by wiser others to 'take a deep breath', or 'sleep on it', or 'don't jump the gun'.
Take ourselves for example. Consider how many times we have spoken in haste only to repent at leisure. I once worked with a wise old chap called Albert in a Brighouse Mill. While Albert had been alive long enough to know many more things than his young workmates could possibly have experienced, his wisdom came not from his age and personal life experience but flowed from his ability 'to listen to', and 'to take in', and 'to digest' the conversations of others 'without interruption or passing any comment'. Then, afterward, he would merely spit out and discard whatever rubbish he had heard and keep forever close to him any pearls of wisdom the overheard conversations of others had imparted to him. To Albert, common sense usually came from the well of basic knowledge drawn by the experience of many others, and the sound knowledge Albert always displayed lay upon the riverbed of his own total experience of how best to interpret and use the truth that fell from the mouths of others he listened to.
All people in the world who are more at peace with themselves are usually the ones who are most at peace with nature and the world around them. They are invariably the ones who are most at peace with their neighbour and the passing stranger. Far more is learned through their observation than their comment within an interaction. I have always thought that the most annoying interviewers on the television or the radio are the ones who never allow the interviewee adequate time to complete their response to what they were asked, before firing them another round of questions in rapid succession. Such interviewers are not really interested in what comes out of the other person’s mouth. Their prime interest lies only with the words they can put into their interviewee’s mouth. The aim of such interviewers is to trap and entice their guests to say something other than they wanted or meant to say!
As a person who has practised relaxation and transcendental meditation since the age of 11 years, and who has instructed both for over 50 years, I am only too aware of the benefit of ‘silence’. Merely taking time out in the countryside from the hustle and bustle of hectic city life is sought by an increasing number of people today for its peace and quiet.
On the other hand, many experiments have shown that enforced silence for prolonged periods (especially by children) can result in shouting, temper tantrums,, and bouts of screaming breaking out. I am sure that so many families with young children who have had to endure the country’s recent lockdown for a number of months during this Coronavirus pandemic will have experienced similar incidents from their offspring who have been kept away from their schools.
According to Dame Esther Ranzen’s research (the television presenter and founder of ‘Childline’ and ‘Silver Line’), thousands of older citizens whose partners have died, and who live alone, can literally go months without contact with another human. Some even die alone in complete silence, and weeks and even months can pass by before their bodies are discovered after someone finally notices the build-up of a dozen bottles of unopened milk on their doorstep and contacts the police.
As humans, our method of word communication with one another and all sense of understanding from which we derive sense and meaning can only exist from the presence of ‘opposite concepts'. Without ‘good’ there is no ‘bad’; without ‘tall’ there is no ‘small’, and without ‘rich’ there is no ‘poor’, and so on. Without ‘silence’ there is no ‘sound’.
So, while remembering that ‘silence’ at the proper season brings forth its own fruitful crop of knowledge and wisdom, there are also times in our lives when to stay silent can be to the detriment of self and others. Inappropriate silence can maintain an unsatisfactory position that requires changing; it can repress the truth, it can obstruct justice, it can condone all manner of wrong, and even lead to the ruination of another’s life or even result in their ultimate death.
Sometimes, the correct thing to do, and the only thing to do, is to speak out loud and clear, while on other occasions ‘silence can indeed, be golden’.
Love and peace Bill xxx