Silence

Silence Quotes

“The people’s silence is a tyrant’s greatest advocate. The less captives talked, the less they knew; the less they knew, the more they feared; and the more they feared, the more easily others could manipulate them to their own ends, the more easily the captives could be controlled.” –  John Kramer, Blythe Here.

“The whole deal about loving truly and for real and with all you’ve got has everything to do with letting those we love see us. Silence makes hard things harder than they need to be. It creates a secret you’re too beautiful to keep. Telling has a way of dispersing things.” – Cheryl Strayed, quoted in the brilliant quotation collection Brave Enough

“War is what happens when language fails.” – Margaret Atwood (in The Robber Bride)

“It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal — carries the cross of the redeemer — not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.” – Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces [quoted by Guy McPherson here]

“What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein (quoted in Voltaire’s Bastards, by John Ralston Saul)

“Your silence will not protect you.” – Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

“A voice is a human gift. It should be cherished & used. Powerlessness & silence go together.” – Margaret Atwood

“When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What every body echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new...” ~ Henry David Thoreau, in Walden

“Silence is the strength of our interior life…If we fill our lives with silence, then we will live in hope.” ~ Thomas Merton

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Often the voice of conscience whispers / Often we silence it / Always we have to pay.” – Cletus Nelson Nwadike, Nigerian poet, Left Curve (# 28) – Utne Reader, May/June 2005

“The demands – heard from pole to pole, for freedom, justice, security, equality, education, a safe environment, and a better life for the world’s children – are all grounded in, and reach downward to, this elemental human need: silence, solitude, and the right to rule one’s own thoughts: the sanity of the inner life.” – Noel Peattie, poet/librarian, Inner Life (quoted in Utne Sept/Oct 2005)

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. ** more MLK quotes

“…the goal of all spiritual life is to get your ego out of the way – outwit the sucker; dissolve it; shoot it; kill it. Silence the incessant planning, organizing, running, manipulating, possessing, and processing”… “because these activities preclude awareness of the Divine.” – Rabbi Lawrence Kushner in his book I’m God, You’re Not (reviewed in Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011 issue, their 25th anniversary issue)

“I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strangely, I am ungrateful to these teachers.” – Kahlil Gibran

“Words bring us together, and silence separates us, leaves us bereft of the help or solidarity or just communion that speech can solicit or elicit. Some species of trees spread root systems underground that interconnect the individual trunks and weave the individual trees into a more stable whole that can’t so easily be blown down in the wind. Stories and conversation are like those roots. For a century, the human response to stress and danger has been defined as “fight or flight.” A 2000 UCLA study by several psychologists noted that this research was based largely on studies of male rats and male human beings. But studying women led them to a third, often deployed option: gather for solidarity, support, advice. They noted that “behaviorally, females’ responses are more marked by a pattern of ‘tend-and-befriend.’ Tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process.” Much of this is done through speech, through telling of one’s plight, through being heard, through hearing compassion and understanding in the response of the people you tend to, whom you befriend. Not only women do this, but perhaps women do this more routinely. It’s how I cope, now that I have one.” – Rebecca Solnit in The Mother of All Questions

“If a thing is never spoken between people who know each other well, and each knows the thing well, maybe it’s not a secret. …. It’s a powerful thing, that ability to tell the truth when the truth is upon you, but it has another power entirely when you don’t tell it.” – Stephen Jenkinson in Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

“If you can’t say something, you can’t see it either.” – Stephen Jenkinson in Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.” – Pastor Martin Niemoeller (1892-1964), a Nazi victim who was imprisoned at Sachsenhausen & Dachau. In postcard form here (& available to purchase from Syracuse Cultural Workers).

** Quotations about conversation are here.