The Sound OF Silence

Lukas DeHaan

"Sunrise, Sunset, Sundown" Taylor Veach

Most of the time, I choose to be quiet. On Thursday, I forced myself to. You see, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of Gandhi’s vow of silence, a day each week in which he went without speaking. I’d always wanted to try it out, so Thursday was the day where I had to be fully mute. I did have to set a few ground rules the night before because my life is just a bit different than Gandhi’s was. I decided that emotional reactions were allowed; going a full day without laughing would be a whole other challenge all by itself. I also had musical practice after school. I determined that when I was up on stage, I could speak as much as an auctioneer if I wanted so long as it was in character. After setting those rules the night before, I went to bed.

 

I woke up in the morning and started my day. It was just like any other morning–except for the mute part, of course. I had already told my family about it the previous evening, so they didn’t try to cause much trouble. As soon as I got to school, the mood completely changed. Most people didn’t know what I was doing, so the day before I thought it would be a good idea to write a quick note that I could show to any person that tried to speak to me so they would understand what was going on. I let most of my friends know about it, but I did need to show a few of them. Shortly after getting to school, I had to go to Calculus. So, I said goodbye–ha, just kidding! I waved goodbye to my friends that weren’t in Calculus and headed off to my first class of the day. Which was probably the most anticlimactic part of this entire experience. It was actually quite easy to not speak, which I definitely did not expect. I let everyone else speak while I sat there and played with my pencil, stuck in my own thoughts. Soon enough, the bell rang, and that was that.

 

It was my second block that ended up being harder, which was even more unexpected. It turned out that the least amount of talking I did in a class, the more likely I was to speak in it. My second block is my independent study class where I’m learning German, so I just did a bunch of exercises like any other class (ones that didn’t involve literal speech, of course). It was the end of the class that brought on the first huge close call I had.

 

“What time does this class get out?” JT asked.

 

As he said this, my vocal cords started to vibrate, and out of my mouth came “E-,” followed by a bout of coughing as I realized what I was doing.

 

I have answered that question so many times that I nearly answered it again on the day I was not allowed to. I had almost failed just because of my natural reflexes. After that near-debacle, I knew I’d have to be more careful. Soon after, the bell rang once again, and I was off to my next class: Band.

 

Band was a whole different beast. It was easy not to talk, but my friends made it as annoying as possible not to. As the class progressed, they kept saying things like “don’t talk if you’re stupid” and other spouts of provocative drivel. It was easy enough not to break; I was willing to sacrifice my pride in the name of this challenge. But they did not make it fun. They were that one mosquito that’s always buzzing around your head that you can’t get rid of. Except there were about five of them and I had to deal with them for two hours.

 

Luckily, those two hours went by quickly. Soon Composition, my final class of the day, began. I thought that it would be just as easy as German. But then I realized that if it were like German, then I needed to be extra careful to not say anything. I had to focus as much as possible; I had learned from the past that it would be quite difficult to not say a word if I didn’t do so.

 

The class went by smoothly. I didn’t speak for the entirety of it, the time was approaching 3:00, and I was 15 minutes away from heading to musical practice where I could be free to speak as much as I wanted. That’s when those fateful words came out of Gretchen’s mouth. You see, for her “new experience” project, she wanted to learn how to make a paper crane. Having forgotten how, she asked, “Wait, how do you do this part again?”

 

I responded with, “Why don’t you just do it again?”

 

Not a second passed before my heart plummeted into my stomach. My body started quivering as I realized what I had done. I looked to the right of me, and I saw the same horrified look on Rachel’s face that I felt on mine.

 

“You spoke,” Rachel said, mournfully surprised.

 

I quickly looked at Gillian and Gretchen–the other two at the table. A gasp emerged from the latter as she rolled back in her chair and put her hands over her mouth. Suddenly, my heart started pounding and sweat formed on my forehead. What was I going to do? I had failed. I was a failure. I had one simple task, and I threw it all away in an instant. Just one lapse in concentration and the whole day was wasted. The sound of silence had been broken.

 

But that’s when it hit me: the bird! There was a paper crane sitting on the table that Gillian had just made. As I mentioned before, Gretchen was struggling with her crane, so Gillian made one to help remind her sister how to do it. This reminded me of the speech team email that Rachel had just sent out, but this email had a surprisingly relevant Bob Ross quote at the bottom of it. It read, “Ever make mistakes in life? Let’s make them birds. Yeah, they’re birds now.”

 

The thought of that quote popped into my mind as I looked at the bird. It was as if God himself had descended from heaven to give me a second chance. I took that bird, held it close, and transferred the mistake I had made into it. This brought my total speaking counter back to a flat zero, and I started grinning from ear to ear! If I hadn’t been with exactly those three people that day (Rachel to send out the speech email and point out that quote, Gretchen to have an interest in making the paper cranes, and Gillian to have made that paper crane because of that interest), I wouldn’t have made it through to the end. I only have them to thank for my inevitable victory. I was as pumped as ever to have another shot, and I knew I would make it through.

 

The rest of the day was a breeze. After that one mistake, I knew I wouldn’t make another. Musical practice didn’t have any problems, and once it was over I just went home and stayed in my room; I didn’t want to risk another outburst. My father did sarcastically offer me money if I did speak, but come on, I’m better than that. I sat on my bed as I watched the hours tick by until I could speak again (I had stopped speaking at 10 p.m. the previous night, so that was my cutoff point). The last two hours were especially awful, and I wasn’t even around anyone. The fact that I still wasn’t allowed to speak even though my day was basically over just annoyed me to no end because I couldn’t get the voice saying “hey, don’t forget: you’re not allowed to talk yet” out of my head, and that was the point where I realized that this whole “not speaking” thing was not really worth my time. I was just over it. Once the hour hit, I laid there on my bed as the biggest sigh I’ve ever had emerged from within me. I had made it through, and I couldn’t be happier that it was over.

 

It was an interesting experience at best, and an annoying and unnecessary one at worst. While it had its fun and quirky moments, it was overall a bothersome thing to deal with. After thinking it over the past few days, I realized the mistake I made. I had made it into a challenge rather than an experience. I was focusing so hard on not speaking, I didn’t appreciate what it was truly meant for: a chance at finding peace within your own mind. Gandhi used his silent days to reflect on his life and who he was as a person, but I just did it as some random challenge.

 

Unfortunately, with the life that I live now, I don’t think that trying to find peace within myself by not speaking is a viable option. Because of that, the experience was not as fun or fulfilling as I had hoped it would be. Gandhi didn’t have nearly as much social interaction in his life as I have in mine, so what he probably found pleasure in, I only found torturous and irritating. Not speaking for a day was pretty exciting and fun, but only for a few rare moments throughout the day. Other than those few gems, it was not really worth doing. I would love to recommend trying it out, but according to what I went through, I think the experience speaks for itself.

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