Murder inspired me last week. It seemed that there was an abundance of killings for me to think about that affected people here in Minnesota, in Louisiana, in Texas, in France, and in many other places around the world. Blue people were killing black people; black people were killing blue people; ISIS people were killing innocent people; crazy people were killing people minding their own business. I was inspired by all of the killings to write a post for my blog concerning just what it is that our world needs to move beyond this insanity, misunderstanding, and hatred that we are currently mired in. In the process of trying to gather the right words to share, I realized that what the world needs to make the senseless killing stop is something much, much deeper than words.
Although I realize there is nothing I could possibly contribute to the stew of words already floating around us to convey what the world needs, I do feel like I know what the world needs. The answer sits inside of my soul, at the core of what makes me human. It fuels my existence and gives me hope. I recognize the shape of it, how it feels, how others react to it – but there are no words to adequately describe it.
I have always been a fan of communication, but I’m not thrilled that, due to technological advances, almost everyone has a voice that can be heard now – whether or not they are qualified to speak about an issue. Because everyone is so focused on how they convey their own message, it seems to me that few people are truly listening to anyone else. Words have become potentially meaningless, dangerous, ugly, and inflammatory in this modern world that is moved by social media. Words have become fueled with implications. They are now used as weapons against those we don’t understand.
Last week, I felt very frustrated by my understanding that the world needs communication that goes beyond words, and that without words, as a writer, I couldn’t communicate what I want to say. Then my aunt invited me to a play at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. It was called, A Hill in Natchez. It was created and directed by Joe Horton. The play opened with two black people moving around a large illuminated white sphere that seemed to captivate and control them at the same time. There were instrumentalists playing music on the side of the stage. The actors didn’t speak in that scene. Actors didn’t speak in any of the scenes until somewhere in the middle when a guy rapped some simple lyrics. The message of the production was communicated primarily through visual images, dance, instrumentals, and guttural vocals. The play was oppressive and uplifting at the same time. It was disturbing and inviting. It was ugly and it was beautiful. I felt it was a presentation of the dichotomy found in the current world that I’ve been observing.
It was the most emotionally powerful performance I have ever seen. A performance without words spoke very clearly to me about the director’s message. It spoke directly to that feeling in my soul that can’t be represented with words. The power of it reinforced my belief that creative people should be given more opportunities to run the world. In a dialogue with the audience after the play, Joe Horton said that the creation of the performance was inspired by a moment when he was trying to process the history of slavery in his family. He wanted to represent the dichotomy of the black experience from the beginning to modern day. He said he chose to make his play without words because silence can be a powerful form of communication.
Silence. That’s it. That’s what the world needs right now. It is more powerful than swimming aimlessly through the overabundance of words we encounter each day. I now believe that our world needs an entire day devoted to complete silence. We need to shut off the sound of the media and exposure to all forms of communication where other people are telling us what to think; we need to put down the noisy guns that are being used to make a statement; we need to shut our mouths and stop talking so that we can open our minds and start listening again. It is in silence that we can hear what truly matters.
Silence invites reflection. If there was a day when every person in the world paused and turned inward, where they could only listen to and see the contents of their own soul, everyone on the planet could be focused on the same thing: the essence of what makes us human. If we were all viewing the same thing, we would not be focused on differences in color, religion, and politics. We would not be thinking about wanting to destroy those who are different. We would all know – without needing words to instruct us – what the world needs to heal and move forward.
I wish you moments of complete silence. I wish the world peace.
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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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