By John Thomas Tuft

Sitting in a silent room, thoughts allowed to wander haunt the dusty corners.  Sunlight creeps across the floor, illuminating the creases in my imagination. The echoes of past mourning, as well as distant conversations with old friends, beckon from two windows set high behind my quilted chair. The afternoon struggles valiantly against the tide, but try as it might, the surge cannot be held back. The shadows lengthen, stealing across the carpet, conquering first the old piano, the books on the coffee table, the couch and its tempting cushions. Specks of angels’ wings flit and float as they catch the last of the light and gently lay themselves down to rest. Yet my thoughts are bright, dancing, fluid, alive. This is my song…in the sound of silence.

I first wrote those words when I was in my teens. Yeah, I’ve been doing this a long time, and no, I wasn’t channeling Paul Simon. In a couple of months I’ll be 65 and I’m just getting started. Again. Because I can’t not do this. I’m a writer. A storyteller. It’s who I am. Some might even say, it’s my calling. Vocation. Raison d’etre. It just took a long time to realize that. Accept it. Welcome who I am.

Recently the media public relations firm that’s trying to sign me up called again. “John, we want to do a sample interview with you.  We’ve got (John Smith) on the line, he’s a radio producer. We know you didn’t like the America’s Minister idea, so let’s try this: You’ve been a minister and a mental health counselor for a good while. Tell us, what have you learned about people? What’s on their minds?” Naturally, I paused, thinking, Really?! Reflected for a moment, then answered, “That people are so often filled with fear. That anger and anxiety seem to run their lives.” John Smith responded, “Oh. Wow, okay. That’s interesting.” I’m not sure what he’d been expecting, but hey, a ruminator’s got to ruminate. The media relations guy broke in. “John, that’s interesting. But…well, this is radio. You can’t do that.” I looked at the phone. “Can’t do what?” I could hear his head shaking. “John, dead air. We can’t have dead air. You need to have a couple of stories ready to go.” They both seem perplexed at my laughter. I guess they’re really hoping I’ll cooperate and get the hang of this. Then John Smith piped up, “But I liked your answer. Not what I expected. Made me start to think.  But we can’t have silence.”

We can’t have silence. “Okay. Let me ask you a question,” I responded. “Did you ever hear of Fred Rogers? You know, from MisterRogers Neighborhood?” They spoke in unison, “Of course.” America’s Minister pressed ahead. “Fred used to, on his show, in his conversations, even in his speeches, urge people to take 60 seconds. For one minute stop and be silent. And in that silence think. In that silence think about the people in your life who made it possible for you to get to where you are now. Picture the people who believed in you. Mister Rogers was so beloved not just because he was good at communicating with children. He knew how to be quiet. He knew how to be thankful. He worked at it. Every morning he spent two hours before he went swimming–that 143 was the weight he was so proud of maintaining after an overweight childhood, as well as the number for the letters in I Love You–every morning he spent two hours in silence, praying for people in his life, his family, his show, his audience. So, guys, if it was good enough for Mister Rogers…” Loud sighs from the other end. “But, Mister Tuft, we can’t do silence on live air.”

And there you have it. We are uncomfortable with silence. It’s not noisy enough. There’s a cell phone app called Calm, which is the height of irony, but I’m not aware of one called Silence. That takes inner software. We are afraid to be alone with our thoughts. What does that say about us? What would be different if we welcomed it? Took time and dwelt in it, not to go too America’s Minister on you. And if our answer is, but what would we talk about, we’ve kinda missed the point. The Sound of Silence takes effort on our part. Commitment. Time.

More later. But for now, “and listen, listen to the sound of silence.”

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.