The sound of silence…

Cue #1: Simon and Garfunkel – “The Sound of Silence”

“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 share | And no one dared | Disturb the sound of silence”

Simon and Garfunkel

And the “darker” version by Disturbed…

Cue #2: Zen Proverb: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

A Zen Buddhist, koan, or philosophical riddle written by the Japanese monk, Hakuin (1687-1768). 

Cue #3: Passive resistance

Peterloo Massacre.png

Famine and chronic unemployment, coupled with the lack of suffrage in northern England, led to a peaceful demonstration of 60,000–80,000 persons, including women and children. The demonstration was organized and rehearsed, with a “prohibition of all weapons of offence or defence” and exhortations to come “armed with no other weapon but that of a self-approving conscience”. Cavalry charged into the crowd, with sabres drawn, and in the ensuing confusion, 15 people were killed and 400–700 were injured. Newspapers expressed horror, and Percy Shelley glorified nonviolent resistance in the poem The Masque of Anarchy. However, the British government cracked down on reform, with the passing of what became known as the Six Acts.

Power and silence

As I begin to take on the role of co-leading a Diploma course in Counselling and Psychotherapy, I’ve been reflecting on some contemporary themes.  This coincides with my MA which I had intended to be on Humanitarian photography, but has been subdivided and potentially “dumbed down”. 

It is just a few weeks since “Black Lives Matter” became particularly widely referenced.  The messages haven’t changed, but there’s been a shift in the extent to which we, privileged whites, are prepared to listen.

I am struck by the imbalance of power between silence and noise.  Increasing numbers of mental health conditions are being recognised as having evidence for treatment by listening therapies:  providing a voice to those who haven’t had one.

In turn, I was reflecting on the fees that coaches and therapists charge.  Most therapists (and many coaches too) charge by the hour.  This locks a therapist/coach-client relationship into the purchase of time.  If we instead see ourselves as delivering a result, then we can charge by the outcome rather than the input.  This balance between money for time and for outcomes is also experienced by wedding photographers.

Today, someone is working in their garden.  They are wearing headphones as they engage in conversations.  Their voice conveys an impression of nervousness yet arrogance, of authority with avoidance of responsibility.  The sound intrudes on others preventing us from concentrating.  It steals our power.

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