I am not a person who has regrets, but one of the few things I wish I had done differently was learn to play a musical intrument as a child. I could still do it, I know, but my life is so slammed with stuff going on I don’t know where I’d work it in. Which is sort of my point here.
As a result of not learning to play and instrument, I have very little understanding of music at any deep level. Yet I’m curious about nearly every damned thing on the planet, so on my morning commute several years ago I was listening intently to a radio show talking about the way we perceive music and the structure of songs. At one point the speaker, whose name I’ve long forgotten, made the statement that it wasn’t the notes that made the shape of a song, but the silence between them.
The silence makes the song.
It is a simple thing, and probably self-evident to any student of music, but was such an epiphany for me that I almost rear-ended the car in front of me. For all the power and beauty of the notes, without the space between them – without the moments of quiet – the song itself had no shape. Silence takes a wild crash of cacophonous sound and creates the structure. It makes the order out of chaos.
We fill out lives with tasks, duties, deliverables, projects, people, and goals. Yet without the moments of silence there is no shape to it. It becomes a rush, a blur. An endless motion without form. The moments of silence in our life where we reflect, breathe, and do something quiet and personal are often the first things we sacrifice when things become hectic, but they should not be compromised. Without them, you’re simply making noise.