Silence As The Backdrop To Life

My experiences last year in hospital and the time spent in Intensive Care clinging onto life has taught me a great deal. I was a frail, sensitive child. The archetypal seven-stone weakling. Yet, I have surmounted the seemingly insurmountable. I have stared death in the face and found myself, even in my weakest moments (both physically and mentally) and against all odds, able to keep up the fight to remain here.

I was listening to music earlier. It’s the relationship with silence which makes music so moving, for me at least. It’s in the interplay of the music against the backdrop of silence which was there before the song began and will be there when it has stopped, which makes music so affecting. The omnipresent silence therefore the canvas onto which music is sonically painted.

As it was then last year when my life hung in the balance, the silence of non-existence juxtaposed against the fight to stay here, even though one day I’ll be gone. I just knew my journey wasn’t done, that more of life needed to play out. I likely will not amount to much in societal or worldly terms but that’s not the point. I am reminded of the quote spoken by Warren Zevon back in 2002 as he edged closer to the silence having been given the diagnosis of terminal cancer. “Enjoy every sandwich” he opined on Letterman.

You know, I never really understood that sentiment until fairly recently when I was once again able to eat and enjoy a sandwich. Up until then I had been very careful about what I ate due to the extensive nature of the bowel surgery I had undergone. Life is strange. I had been wanting to go fully vegan before all the drama of last year and had successfully cut out red meat but still occasionally ate white meat and some dairy. Now, all of that makes me feel physically sick and I end up on the toilet a lot, which leads to that area stinging and burning, so in a way what happened forced me to adopt the life I always wanted but hadn’t given myself fully to before.

So it was then, I took a bite of a sandwich.

The softness of the bread, the tastiness of the filling, the feeling of doing something usual again after so long of eating in essence, bland foods. Before all of this, I would have needed to have been taken to a great restaurant with the most extensive menu to feel anything like that but nope, there I was, sat in my kitchen tucking into a regular sandwich and it tasted incredible.

But more so than that, it took me directly into that given moment. I could never get my head around the concept of Living In The Moment. I was always thinking about the past or planning towards a future. I understood it in my head but it never resonated with me fully. Now it does and I get it. I am now completely focused on whatever it is I am doing in any moment and I give my all to it, whatever it happens to be.

The backdrop is always silence, whether it be the knowledge that one day I won’t be here in the form I am now, as I once again enter non-existence or just writing in ‘silence’ which is never possible as there is always some sound happening whether it be one of the cats purring, the hum of the refrigerator, an owl hooting outside, rain pelting against the window. I’m okay with not existing as we all reach that state anyhow.

The simplicity of the moment is always there, perhaps making a cup of tea which has now become a minor ceremony as I imagine how many people, how many pairs of hands, how many lives were involved in the process of getting the tea from the Sri Lankan fields to my warmed teapot and then a flavoursome brew. It can be watching the refuse collectors first thing in the morning, as the truck makes its way up the street and often under the cover of darkness. The unsung heroes who work the menial jobs with little to no thanks and who get up at ungodly hours to work a totally unglamorous job, just so our lives run a little smoother.

Everything is different now.

My entire outlook has changed and for the better. I don’t just sense the interconnectedness between all things, I see it, I hear it, I KNOW it. But what I have been completely unprepared for is how much I have become the silence which is always there, playing out against the backdrop of my own life.

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