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Reply To: Journeys in Silence, with Mythologist John Bucher, Ph.D.


Hello Dr. Bucher,

I very much enjoyed reading your Mythblast article, and contemplated a good deal on times that I remained silent when I ought to have spoken. Actually, I regret that I did not speak up — I question myself as to why I  sat shocked and distressed in school, and later on in my life too. That’s just me. But then there are many forms of silences.  There’s silence when we meditate (here we try and silence the mind). The kind of silence that I regret upon is  perhaps called a ‘baffled silence of confusion’. There is a silence when we experience a peaceful accord with the environment, with the sunrise and the sunset. Listening to music and songs requires deep silence from my part for I find I can’t listen to my songs when those who don’t appreciate my kind of music are around. I want to be alone and silent.

You asked, “I’ve sometimes wondered how a young Joseph Campbell might have maneuvered in our modern world of social media. Ours is an age where silence has become a rare commodity. We are constantly spoken to (and many times shouted at), both with visuals and audio, through televisions, phones, computers, and any number of communication and entertainment devices. In a world where individuals are more often treated as consumers than humans, multi-billion-dollar industries work around the clock to assure we are never afforded a moment of silence.”

Dr. Bucher, I thought a good deal on the subject, and my answer is this: Joseph Campbell would have accepted it and found ways to maneuver in this high tech, supersonic, space age, cyberspace world. Reason is that according to Joe, the main function of a myth was to support and validate a given moral order of the society in which the individual is to live.

Additionally, Joe and Jean were good friends with John Cage, who experimented with Silence and wrote a good deal on the subject. “There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.” (Silence: Lectures and Writings – John Cage)

I love what Aldous Huxley said, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”   That’s baffled silence to me. Another kind of silence I have personally experienced is a silence that comes with falling in love. I felt tongue tied, not being able to say what needed to be said…there were more than one hundred emotions that confused my speaking mind.  Another kind of silence and not speaking up is the time that I didn’t reach out and apologize to a very dear Uncle before he passed away — staying silent then would not have been the right thing for me. The dying too want to reach out and speak to their loved ones before taking their last breath.

On the other hand, Carl Jung said, “Talking is often a torment to me and I need several days of silence to recover the futility of words”.  But I do think that Joe would have accepted the new world with an unmatched poetic sense and integrated well with his new world.

The material of music is sound and silence. Integrating these is composing. – (John Cage)

Again, thank you for a thought provoking piece, Dr. Bucher. I’ll link this to a story I have in mind.