Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence.
Sometimes the Really Important things are not said.
Sometimes the Really Important things are never spoken about.
Simon and Garfunkle’s Sound of Silence (1964) resonates for so many because we know and experience this each and every day of our lives.
There is an extraordinary need for connection which holds together not only humanity but Creation as a whole; we experience and manage this in so many ways, not least through the ways in which we communicate love with each other.
When asked what was behind the lyrics of the Sound of Silence Garfunkel once summed up the song’s meaning as:
…the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.” (1)
Was he driving at the need for authenticity; for communicating what we think and how we feel with clarity and awareness of how others think and feel? Or was he probing deeper at the loveless silence of a lack of care which turns a blind eye to injustices and suffering of those around us?
Certainly, it is widely recognised that emotional intelligence can increase the effectiveness of how we connect with others and achieve more for the Common Good, whether it is used in the context of respectful inter-religious dialogue, international conflict resolution and mediation or in the context of engaging meaningfully with our MP who votes to cut disability benefits or our neighbour who lets their rubbish overflow onto the street!
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
“Fools,” said I, “You do not know.
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence
But there is also a dark side to emotional intelligence which Simon and Garfunkle may not have explicitly sought to convey, but which is also prevalent today; the power to manipulate others. We are living in a time of large-scale manipulation for financial gain and every other imaginable type of power.
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence.”
We need healing.
Our World needs healing.
We need to move beyond the (short-lived) comforts behind the barriers of fear and inauthenticity which the prophets keep reminding us of-if only we would listen to what they say. We need to begin hearing and listening, talking and speaking, writing songs that we share; we need to love and show that love by acts of care. In short, we need to grasp the Gift of Life-that which Jesus described would truly connect us to each other and heal our Alienation and Fear; the ancients first described this gift as shalom – wholeness, well-being, oneness, salvation and peace…
You can listen to two versions of the Sound of Silence below… I like the edge and desperation conveyed in the Disturbed cover…see what you think…and of course-what you feel! 😉
(1) Eliot, Marc (2010). Paul Simon: A Life, John Wiley and Sons, p.40
[NB Please click on hyperlinked words for more information].