“You must forget all your theories, all your ideas before the subject. What part of these is really your own will be expressed in your expression of the emotion awakened in you by the subject.” ~ Henri Matisse
So – it’s day four of the week of silence and I’ve got to say, in some ways, it’s not as hard as you’d think. In other ways, it’s completely excrutiating!
First, some observations… silence can actually be a pretty great indicator of who your friends are. It is incredibly isolating to not speak, it’s uncomfortable and annoying and pretty boring so I can imagine hanging out with someone, interacting with someone who’s silent to be all of those things too.
That said there have been a few people who have made plans and hung out over the past couple of days and even more who have sent emails and texts and fb messages just to say hi or to talk about times they’ve been silent. All of the interaction has been so awesome and supportive. Not one of them has suggested I can’t make it through to Friday or that the experiment is crazy or ridiculous and I love them for it. It’s clear – work like this brings along people you wouldn’t expect, those who are curious and kind and it’s heartening. Thank you.
Another realization – people ask so many questions! In life, everyday people must ask hundreds of questions. I reckon inquiry is one of the least recognized parts of our day. Sure, most of the que ries are mundane but, really, questions kind of keep the world moving and standing back to notice that has been really interesting.
Also – I talk a lot of crap, and so does everyone! Part of this exercise, Twyla Tharp’s reasoning, is to look at what we talk about and to look at its value. What are we saying? Is it important? Why? I think that while there is much conversation that is interesting and valuable there is also a lot that is valuable but not so interesting. This weekend I had an awesome time with a generous friend who played along, chatted and connected with me despite my non-verbal state.
Through notes and gestures and eye contact we “blabbed” through recent events in her life, not overly exciting or valuable, and into a realization that was quite profound. I don’t know if she’d expressed it outwardly before or if it was quite so significant to her but what I do know is that the not so valuable chat is what got us there. Those conversations that may not appear to have value are often the bridges that take us to meaningful revelations.
Speech can be compulsive. This is a HUGE realization for me. Holding back over the past few days has highlighted just how reactionary speech is. The few times I’ve broken the silence (there have been three or four phrases that escaped) have been as follows…
1) Sorry! – I was at the AGO, sitting drawing a painting at a station with an tablet. Someone came along to reset the ipad and, without any thought the word slipped from my lips.
2) HEY! – in the car with a slightly distracted friend who didn’t notice that people had entered a crosswalk.
3) Bless you! – this one’s obvious, though I didn’t know the person at the restaurant who sneezed.
4) “I’m putting this back” – the biggest transgression. This too was compulsive. I was at the grocery store with mum and for whatever reason didn’t think to hold it in. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even enjoy saying the words! Silence takes so much concentration – more on that in a minute.
So – what do these have in common?? Well they’re either politeness or emergency. Interesting that they should have equal value in my mouth…
One of my biggest troubles with this exercise is that I feel incredibly rude most of the time. For as much as we believe Toronto to be snobby and rude and impersonal there are loads of small opportunities for connection and interaction that happen every day. Not being able to react to them is one thing but, not being able to connect, to interact has me noticing how much it jars people who do attempt connection when they are rebuffed. Silence is a weird one too because while I try to smile and be open I’m still not talking and that is even stranger.
One massive gift has been the alternate forms of expression – I spent Friday afternoon drawing and colouring and listening at the AGO. Saturday afternoon I was painting and drawing. Something to try – take one small phrase and make it a focus. Write it, draw it, paint it, sing it, dance it – play with that phrase. I couldn’t turn mine over in my mouth and chose not to send it back through the wires immediately and the words became some small form of art. I found so many different ways to write and paint them. I stretched my brain and I’ve discovered I really love producing visual art. Not just for fun as I thought before but in a much deeper way…
Lastly, on concentration. It takes so much. I thought entering this that it would be hard but I thought so quite flippantly, that it would be tough because I’d want to gossip or order food. It is hard because for a speaking person talking is natural. Constantly holding back responses, not being able to ask questions. It’s so very hard. To be honest it’s actually physically exhausting and I’ve had headaches for much of the weekend!
I’ve had a few people suggest that I don’t need to keep to the full week, and some suggest that I can’t, that, of course, Laura has to go overboard and can’t just do the typical 24 or 48 hours. That’s been interesting too. I don’t know if I’ll make it a full week. I don’t know if I need to but it does feel as though I’m about to happen on something interesting so, at this point, I’m going to take it day by day and try not to make this about proving other people wrong because apparently, even in silence and frustration I’m still very stubborn.
Wishing you an amazing, expressive week…
Category: Art, Creativity, Creativity in Action, Education, Exercises, Innovation, Leadership, Learning Together, Life Skills, Personal Development, Professional Development, Today's Challenge, Toronto, Trial and Error Tagged: AGO, art, art gallery of Ontario, artistic focus, Arts, communication, communication exercise, communication experiment, connection, creative exercises, creative experiment, creative support, Creativity, culture, drawing, education, Experiment, focus, Henri Matisse, isolation, leadership, loneliness, Matisse, My Creative Experiment, no speaking, no talking, painting, personal development, politeness, professional development, Question, quiet, shh, Silence, silent, social experiment, support, The Dance, Thought, toronto, Twyla Tharp, Visual arts, vulnerablity, words