Art and Silence

Considering the subtle choreography of silence.

On this day in 1973, philosopher and political scientist Leo Strauss died at the age of seventy-four. Among his many works, Strauss published Persecution and the Art of Writing in 1941. In honor of the occasion, this will be the text for today’s found reflection––not quite a found poem, but a meditation constructed at least partially with phrases from a parent text.

Once there were public spaces of free public discussion, and now it may be worthwhile to consider certain compulsions: to coordinate speech with the accepted norms of a given group.

Hasn’t this always been true? Perhaps, and yet. The possibilities of voiding a name have never been more endless; it remains unclear yet if they run parallel to those for saving one. 

The issue is no longer so clear cut. People vs. government? Only sometimes. People vs. the ideas they have been conditioned to believe are their own? Frequently. People vs. machine? Often, and yet: few blanket statements are effective. People vs. the blanket statement, easily codified into an algorithm? Here is something. 

Who checks the rampant impulses that so many have been conditioned to believe themselves to own? Compulsion paves the way by silencing contradiction.

If freedom of thought is the ability to choose from among a variety of ideas, what happens when a choice is diminished from a vast number of possibilities to a simple either vs. or? What account can ever be made for censorship by noise?  

There is no need to silence the still, small voice when it may be easily overcome––on first listen, anyway––by an onslaught of noise. What does the average listener call a statement constantly repeated without contradiction, but true?