What the silence says

Adam Griffiths

For 17 hours on Wednesday, I didn’t say a word.

And I didn’t exactly plan on it either. I was in the Stater office around midnight and haphazardly decided to shut my mouth until 5 p.m.

Wednesday was the 11th annual National Day of Silence, a nationwide event on high school and college campuses sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network to protest the discrimination, harassment and abuse faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and their allies in schools.

It wasn’t my first Day of Silence. I participated last year at my high school, donning a T-shirt that subtly questioned, “Can you hear me now?” I passed out the cards to my teachers explaining what I was doing so they wouldn’t mistake my silence as insubordination. I spent my classes holding my tongue, being the overtly vocal person I am, spending a lot of time reflecting on my personal reasons for staying silent.

But this year was different — there was a lot more to think about.

Silence is a weird thing, if only because we may never actually experience it. Where are you right now? The Student Center? Your dorm room? A classroom? There is constant noise at all times in our lives even if it’s only background noise. Try to think about a time in your life when you actually heard nothing for any significant period of time.

Keep trying, because many of us haven’t.

That says something about our generation. In my English class Tuesday, this concept of silence came up: the idea of spending time with ourselves. In an age of cell phones and iPods, we fill every spare moment with distraction. Self-introspection and reflection seem to be enabled only through the engagement in tangible objects that we use to pacify the off chance of down time.

You’re probably reading this in silence, to yourself, but it’s doubtfully silent around you.

Silence is something we reserve for the rare, the uncommon and the infrequent. In the shadow of the Virginia Tech shootings Monday, ACPB is observing a moment of silence before last night’s O.A.R. performance at FlashFest.

And the Day of Silence is one of the biggest lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual awareness movements observed nationwide. Yesterday was about remembering the Matthew Shepherds of the world. It was about the fight for tolerance and acceptance.

But it was also about the power of silence. In self-growth. In remembrance. In recognizing that long periods of not speaking may be more influential and actualizing than any amount of speech.

What aren’t you saying right now that you could?

What aren’t you saying right now that you should be?

For 17 hours on Wednesday, I didn’t say a word.

And that said everything.

Adam Griffiths is a freshman magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].