Silence

Nick Mattos everything is connectedBy Nick Mattos

1) I was that guy, weeping on the Trimet bus. It’s a hot June day in 2012, and the bus is packed full of people in the after-work rush; I am struggling to keep it together, but even so, I cover my mouth with my hand and pretend to be transfixed by something out the window. I’m on my way home from my first day in a course on Transcendental Meditation, and I desperately want to tell this to the man sitting next to me as some sort of explanation as to why it’s totally fine that I’m crying, that these are happy tears. Instead, I watch him try to turn as far away from me as he could without seeming rude. I return to staring out the window with tears running down my face.

2) Historically, I have never been big on quiet. I grew up in a home full of intense noise and chaos, where full participation in the din was expected; starting in my early teens, I became the sort of overextended student that balanced school, a job, and extracurriculars daily. When I grew up, I landed in a series of relationships with men who, in acting out of the scripts they learned in their own homes of origin, weaponized quietness through use of the “silent treatment,” rendering quiet moments an uncomfortable signal that feelings were hurt and something was wrong relationally. As a result, I became a compulsively busy and loud guy, with a brain that ran like a freight train on a 24-hour schedule. Naturally, nothing was more alien or more anxiety-producing for me than a temporary break in the din.

3) I was on the bus, blessed heartily with the gift of tears, because just an hour beforehand I had learned something extraordinary. All along, beneath the mental chatter, and the depressive rumination, and the frantic anxiety, and the complex armor I had constructed around my heart to keep it safe, and the nightmares that followed me into the daytime, something was waiting for me to rediscover it. That thing, the reason I was weeping with joy, was silence.

4) “Silence vibrating is Creation,” Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the meditation teacher who taught my teacher, once said. “Silence flowing is Love. Silence shared is Friendship. Silence seen is Infinity. Silence heard is Adoration. Silence expressed is Beauty. Silence maintained is Strength. Silence omitted is Suffering. Silence allowed is Rest. Silence recorded is Scripture. Silence preserved is Our Tradition. Silence given is Initiating. Silence received is Joy. Silence perceived is Knowledge. Silence stabilized is Fulfillment. Silence alone is.”

5) Soon after I learned how to meditate and got re-acquainted with silence, I started this very column you’re reading right now. I had just completed a brief foray into serial fiction — an experiment which emerged from my being too troubled by the state of my own life to write about it, and which offered generous proof that I am definitely not a fiction-writing kind of guy. I knew I wanted to do a new column, a creative nonfiction series; however, I couldn’t think of a name. “What would I want people to repeat to themselves?” I wondered. “What would I need to remember myself?”

6) I named this column Everything Is Connected because it’s truth of the matter: everything is indeed connected, because everything emerges from, is sustained within, and ultimately returns to silence. Everyone is connected because, deep beneath each of our distinct sets of anxieties and ruminations and panics and pleasures, the same silence is running through each of us like a current. This is the fact of the matter: every month since I started writing these to you, all I’ve been trying to do was to stand beside you and point toward that silence, to let us both enjoy the sensation of it flowing through us and everything else. If I have ever been able to do that, I could weep with joy.

7) Most days, I still spend twenty minutes twice a day intentionally reaching towards silence. I do it because, when I do set aside that time, it’s vastly easier to touch that silence in the remaining twenty-three hours and twenty minutes of the day. It’s far easier for me to observe the world and see that it is huge, and luminous with a million reasons our lives are worth saving, yours and mine both. It gives me a context to understand that we are actually in this together, that everything is indeed connected, and that we need to make it work. Making friends with silence has given me ample reason to cry with joy in public, and in private, and here on the page for you, standing beside you and pointing towards it. My greatest hope is that perhaps, maybe once or twice, I’ve helped you touch that silence too. Even if I haven’t, though, it’s still there. This is the wondrous thing, and the miracle: before there was anything else, there was silence — long after the last words are said, after we are gone, there beneath the humming of the world, silence will be there, waiting for the next time the words will emerge and the world will be remade.

Nick Mattos can get a little deep sometimes. Reach him at nick@pqmonthly.com.