Thursday, January 15, 2009

On Silence and Writing

Calvin understands

I've said before that I like writing. It's something fun that allows me to explain my thoughts. If I make a mistake I can correct it; if I don't like how it comes across I can rewrite it.

I'm not good at communicating with people in person. A friend hypothesized that this is because my mind moves too fast for my mouth to keep up, which if you've ever heard me talk is not something to scoff at. Because my mind is always doing something -- always calculating, analyzing, planning -- that I don't know what to do when there's a lull in a conversation. I'm not used to quiet moments of nothing going on. The proposition definitely has merit; I do just fine in conversations as long as there's something to talk about, it's when that goes away that I get uncomfortable.

So, I write.

For much of my life I've been more comfortable communicating via writing, be it in the form of instant messenger programs, e-mails, or text messages. Silence, while something I greatly enjoy myself, is not something I'm particularly good at with others. I am trying, though.

Elzéard Bouffier

The other night during our weekly movie night brother showed a film called The Man Who Planted Trees. It's a short film, only 30 minutes long, that chronicles a man who lives alone and plants trees. It's told by a narrator who meets the man, Elzéard Bouffier, while hiking in the mountains in the year 1910. Each day the man, who lives alone in a small stone house, goes out with a flock of sheep and while they're grazing he plants trees. Carefully he plants them one at a time giving each the highest possible chance of success.

While my brother enjoyed commenting about how inspiring the film is in that it shows how one man can make a difference -- by the end of the film it's implied the man had planted over a million trees, in which about 100,000 actually grew to adulthood -- I am not overly inspired. I do not see it as metaphysical or religious allegory. This may be because, despite it's inspirational nature and the biographical tone, the story is not true. The author, Jean Giono, has stated, "Sorry to disappoint you, but Elzéard Bouffier is a fictional person. The goal was to make trees likeable, or more specifically, make planting trees likeable." I think Giono succeeded; after watching the film I do have a compelling desire to live by myself and plant trees.

I do not mean to say I dislike the film. Quite the opposite, I greatly enjoy it. What I am getting at is that I do not enjoy it on the same level or in the same sense that my brother and those we watched it with do. Rather what I'm fascinated by is how the story is short --

Silent with his trees

the actual written story consists of less than 4,000 words -- and the man, Elzéard Bouffier, speaks so little. It is stated specifically that there is only one time in which they directly speak; everything else is communicated non-verbally and silently. The comfortability of the man, the way he meets and invites the man to stay with him, offers him food and lodging for the night, all without speaking is what I find fascinating. I struggle with silence in conversations yet in the story the narrator and the man speak very little. During the story the narrator speaks of walking through a forest of trees twice as tall as him, all planted by Elzéard, and how they walked in silence. I wish I could do that.

Also a Depeche Mode song

I wish I was comfortable enough around people to enjoy silence. As it stands now if I'm quiet around people it's usually because something is bothering me; I may be uncomfortable or I may be irritated with someone. The common saying of "If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all" is one I often live by and causes me to be very silent around certain people. Problematically, my behavior for when I'm upset is the same as when I'm uncomfortable so people often confuse the two. Thus people often confuse my uncomfortability during silences with me being mad at them. When people think you're mad at them they tend to treat you differently or even become defensive and/or aggressive, thus making me more uncomfortable and or confused.

In short, personal interactions are something I struggle with; so I write.

1 comment:

--jeff * said...

i'm much more comfortable in writing than in speaking, too. in fact, much of what you said i could have written.

i'm ok with "comfortable silences." the problem is, most of society isn't. i would like to be better at engaging, meaningful conversation, or that silence was acceptable, and not merely a sign of uncomfortableness or resentment. while both are areas to improve, i would like to be a better conversationalist. yet i feel so much more at home in front of a keyboard.
being that we live together, it's taken me a while to get used to both of us being quiet around the house. : )

that being said, i do wish we talked more.

p.s. if you find a way to turn your brain down from "high", please let me know how.