Silence is Gold?
It was 5 years back that my friend and I first read Eragon, followed by Eldest, back when our minds were simple enough to absorb somebody else's fantasy in full measure. Although the years have blurred the memories of these books, there's one instance in Eldest that I happened to recall quite out of the blue a few days back.
This is the point where Eragon is being trained in magic and fighting by Oromis, who's an elf and a dragon rider.
When they were clean, Oromis took Eragon deep into Du Weldenvarden
to a hollow where the dark trees leaned inward, obscuring the sky
behind branches and veils of snarled lichen. Their feet sank into the moss
above their ankles. All was silent about them.
Pointing to a white stump with a flat, polished top three yards across
that rested in the center of the hollow, Oromis said, “Sit here.”
Eragon did as he was told.
“Cross your legs and close your eyes.”
The world went dark around him. From his right, he heard Oromis whisper, “Open your
mind, Eragon. Open your mind and listen to the world around you, to the
thoughts of every being in this glade, from the ants in the trees to the
worms in the ground. Listen until you can hear them all and you understand
their purpose and nature. Listen, and when you hear no more, come tell me what you have learned.”
Then the forest was quiet.
I remember picturing Eragon sitting in that clearing, with his eyes closed trying to listen, listen to the silence, until he could hear every form of life around him. The image was comforting.
He felt suddenly vulnerable; he was completely exposed to the world.
Anyone or anything that might want to leap into his mind and control
him could now do so. He tensed unconsciously, withdrawing back into
himself, and his awareness of the hollow vanished. Remembering one of
Oromis’s lessons, Eragon slowed his breathing and monitored the sweep
of his lungs until he had relaxed enough to reopen his mind...
And he does indeed reach out to the consciousness of the beings around him, focusing mainly on the ants, diving into their lives and thought processes..
Engrossed in his thoughts, Eragon returned to the clearing, wondering
what he might be crushing under his feet with every step. When he
emerged from under the trees’ shelter, he was startled by how far the sun
had fallen. I must have been sitting there for at least three hours.
He found Oromis in his hut, writing with a goose-feather quill. The elf
finished his line, then wiped the nib of the quill clean, stoppered his ink,
and asked, “And what did you hear, Eragon?”
Eragon was eager to share. As he described his experience, he heard his
voice rise with enthusiasm over the details of the ants’ society. He recounted
everything that he could recall, down to the minutest and most
inconsequential observation, proud of the information that he had gathered.
When he finished, Oromis raised an eyebrow. “Is that all?”
Clearly, Oromis doesn't seem satisfied, when further prodded, he explains..
“Therein lies your mistake. You must become aware of all things
equally and not blinker yourself in order to concentrate on a particular
subject. This is an essential lesson, and until you master it, you will meditate
on the stump for an hour each day.”
“How will I know when I have mastered it?”
“When you can watch one and know all.”
And isn't that what we all need to learn?
I never was a quiet child, and although I never spoke out of occasion, but given one that I found appropriate, I would usually go on for hours. Now I look back at those school days with amazement, those numerous times when I'd been punished for talking after being instructed to be silent, when my seat in every classroom used to be changed a million times so I wouldn't be next to my friends, but considering I got along well with nearly everyone in my school, those measures were quite futile.
They all say it's a phase. And they're right.
I can never be that person I once used to be. Much has happened and much remains. From all the life lessons that were thrown my way, I deeply value the one on silence.
Last week, I found myself discussing this with a friend over emails, the same friend who'd read those books at the same time as me. That is when I recalled the above extract from Eldest.
We talked about how much we've changed. I realized how quiet I've turned lately, how I try my best to talk using the least possible phrases, how I prefer to have my cell phone on the silent mode and how sometimes I just watch it ring but choose to ignore the call only to inquire of the business later through a message, how it's become so much easier for me to express myself in writing than in speech, not that I'm unable to (I've been a successful orator all my life) but given a choice, I'd go for the former, and how I'd rather walk away from an argument if I see no point of one, even if that means accepting defeat. Sometimes though, I do see traces of my old self when I'm with those close to me, but more often than not, I seem to find solace in silence, thoughts and actions instead of speech.
I guess this too is a phase.