“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1965, Simon and Garfunkel released a song entitled “The Sound of Silence.” It was inspired by the friendship of Art Garfunkel and Sanford ‘Sandy’ Greenberg his roommate at Columbia University who went blind as glaucoma destroyed his optic nerve. Initially, Greenberg believed he would have to drop out of school, but his loyal friend Art shadowed him, vowing to be his eyes. Garfunkel even began to refer to himself as “Darkness”— a show of empathy for what his friend was going through. He said, ‘I want to be together where you are, in the black.’ He’d tell Sandy, “Darkness is going to read to you now.” Art kept watch over Sandy’s every move until he developed the confidence to operate on his own. One day Garfunkel wanted to record a song but needed $400 for the session. Sandy had just $404 to his name, but gladly gave all but $4 to his friend Art, who recorded the now famous song The Sound of Silence. Its first lyrics,“Hello Darkness, my old friend…” are a testament to their brotherly love. Don’t we all desire to have or be a friend like this! Sandy Greenberg went on to receive his master’s degree from Harvard and Oxford. He became a businessman and philanthropist giving millions to blind research. Listen to The Sound of Silence here. It’s lyrics and music are profound:
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 shared
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
The dictionary says SILENCE is the complete absence of sound; the fact or state of abstaining from speech; the avoidance of mentioning or discussing something. Silence is also a verb—to prohibit or prevent someone from speaking; to stop or suppress a sound or nose. Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that there is “A time to tear, And a time to mend; a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” If you’re like me, there are times when you wonder if you’ve properly placed those. Have you spoken during the time for silence? Or did you remain silent when you should have spoken?
I did not realize that silence had a sound. The older I get the more I realize that, like Dr. King said above…people make very clear statements with their silence. Silence can say, “I’m with you,” but silence can also say, “I’m not on your side…you’re on your own.” We’ve all given someone the punishment of “the silent treatment.” Silence can affirm and silence can reject. Silence can even scream. Some people believe their silence brings safety and comfort. Is silence the best option because it keeps us unexposed and under the radar? Sometimes there is wisdom in being silent, but other occasions call for our voices to be raised. As I’ve looked around the atrocities of these days, I hear loud voices on the fringes, but mostly I hear a lot of silence, Disenfranchised people have said they experience this silence as violence—a display of apathy and abandonment when they’d hoped for allies. That means that even silence can be weaponized. The Sound of Silence’s lyrics say, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, in tenement halls. And whispered in the sound of silence.” Your silence speaks.