Going Silent (Installment Six)

This is the part where the novelty wears off.

The start of every journey is full of energy, whether that energy is derived from joyous expectation or fear, or a combination of the two. The not-knowing is what creates the heat, it’s where the impetus to move forward comes from. But what happens when you’ve become accustomed to all the newness? When you’ve become inured to whatever excitement the experience once provided you with?


This is familiar territory for every artist, for every entrepreneur and for every lover. What happens when we’ve used up our initial fuel and we find ourselves trudging through the experience rather than borne aloft by it? That’s where I am today in my nearly five-week sojourn into wordless silence. A rest that was necessary for the lead up to, and recovery from a surgery on my vocal cords.

I’d written in previous installments of a sense of wonder about the spaces created from not speaking. I talked about an appreciation of life’s subtler things, like the simple beauty of music, of nature, and of ordinary conversations. As with every nascent idea, there was hopefulness about where the journey into silence might take me, expectancy that I would be somehow furthered by it. While I still believe it’s true, I’m now at a place where my belief is far less visceral and far more academic.

That is to say, I don’t feel uplifted by any of it anymore, I just feel anxious and lonely and cut off from the world. I just want it to be done. If not brought about by exactly the same circumstances, I’ve been through this cycle so many times. I know on an intellectual level that the probability of there being profound and positive change is still high.

But I’m being abstruse in using the terms “intellectual level.” To be more precise, I have now been forced into a realm of faith. Faith has been, as it often is, forced upon me, meaning that I have not chosen to participate in this exercise (and we who are in any way suffering hardly ever do) rather, it’s been foisted upon me.

Faith in all instances means that those who use it, have by design and necessity, left the realm of pure reason and entered a place where assumptions about what is sure and what is real are suddenly unreliable. We who stand in this place must create our own terra firma, our own novel system of meaning and doing so, for anyone who’s tried, is a very difficult task.

This is the place that is hardly explored enough; it is the middle of things, the place where the raft at sea is simply adrift, the place where the painter is so distraught with her work that she contemplates throwing it all away, the place where the writer looks down at his pages and where once he saw great meaning, he now sees treacle.

Without the power of speech I feel useless and unwanted. I am a social person who loves engaging with others and now I feel like an outcast. I haven’t left the house in a week for fear I’ll meet someone and have to pantomime my predicament. When my brother wants to Skype with me, I relent and do so only not to hurt his feelings. I appreciate his reaching out to me but I’d prefer we just text, I can’t bear to be seen at the moment.

But if the circumstances of how I came to this feeling are new, the feeling itself is very familiar. It’s what happens with every album I make, with everything I write and with every dream I try to make manifest. The feeling of being a fraud, the feeling of being a dilettante, an imposter — or just a plain old, everyday asshole that’s looking to sate his unassuageable ego, is weighing me down.

My remedy for what’s happening will be the same one I’ve used for decades. It will be to persevere, to accept the fear, and accept the potential for disgrace. I will then work with faith. Faith, (which is the ash of reason) is what we use to create something beyond what we ever imagined we could accomplish.


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