The chosen essays on silence

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Buy essay. Acceptance Choosing three sonnets by three different poets ex Free Essays on College Education. Throughout the novel the readers learn more about the father-son relationships and are able to notice three differences between the two relationships in The Chosen. Reb Saunders chooses to raise his son in silence, meaning Reb does not speak to his son, with the exception of studying the Talmud.


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The silence between Danny and Reb contrasts the conversations that Reuven and David share. Ideally, one should be able to pay attention to everything. The motion is toward less and less. But never has "less" so ostentatiously advanced itself as "more. In the light of the current myth, in which art aims to become a "total experience," soliciting total attention.

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Underneath what looks like a strenuous modesty, if not actual debility, one may discern an energetic secular blasphemy: the wish to attain the unfettered, unselective, total consciousness of "God. Language seems a privileged metaphor for expressing the mediated character of art-making and the art-work.

On the one hand, speech is both an immaterial medium compared with, say, images and a human activity with an apparently essential stake in the project of transcendence, of moving beyond the singular and contingent all words being abstractions, only roughly based on or making reference to concrete particulars. But, on the other hand, language is the most impure, the most contaminated, the most exhausted of all the materials out of which art is made. Art is so far along the labyrinthine pathways of the project of transcendence that it's hard to conceive of it turning back, short of the most drastic and punitive "cultural revolution.

In little more than two centuries, the consciousness of history has transformed itself from a liberation, an opening of doors, blessed enlightenment, into an almost insupportable burden of self-consciousness. It's impossible for the artist to write a word or render an image or make a gesture that doesn't remind him of something. Up to a point, the community and historicity of the artist's means are implicit in the very fact of intersubjectivity: each person is a being-in-a-world.

But this normal state of affairs is felt today particularly in the arts using language as an extraordinary, wearying problem. As Nietzsche said: "Our pre-eminence: we live in the age of comparison, we can verify as has never been verified before. Language is experienced not merely as something shared but something corrupted, weighed down by historical accumulation. Thus, for each conscious artist, the creation of a work means dealing with two potentially antagonistic domains of meaning and their relationships. One is his own meaning or lack of it ; the other is the set of second-order meanings which both extend his own language and also encumber, compromise, and adulterate it.

The artist ends by choosing between two inherently limiting alternatives. He is forced to take a position that's either servile or insolent: either he flatters or appeases his audience, giving them what they already know, or he commits an aggression against his audience, giving them what they don't want.

Modern art thus transmits in full the alienation produced by historical consciousness. Whatever the artist does is in usually conscious alignment with something else already done, producing a compulsion to be continually rechecking his situation. His own stance with those of his predecessors and contemporaries.

Compensating for this ignominious enslavement to history, the artist exalts himself with the dream of a wholly ahistorical, and therefore unalienated, art. Art that is "silent" constitutes one approach to this visionary, ahistorical condition. Consider the difference between "looking" and "staring. A stare has, essentially, the character of a compulsion; it is steady, unmodulated, "fixed. Traditional art invites a look. Art that's silent engenders a stare.

In silent art, there is at least in principle no release from attention, because there has never, in principle, been any soliciting of it. A stare is perhaps as far from history, as close to eternity, as contemporary art can get. Silence is a metaphor for a cleansed, noninterfering vision, in which one might envisage the making of art-works that are unresponsive before being seen, unviolable in their essential integrity by human scrutiny.

The spectator would approach art as he does a landscape. A landscape doesn't demand from the spectator his "understanding," his imputations of significance, his anxieties and sympathies; it demands, rather, his absence, that he not add anything to it.

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Contemplation, strictly speaking, entails self-forgetfulness on the part of the spectator: an object worthy of contemplation is one which, in effect, annihilates the perceiving subject. In principle, the audience may not even add its thought. All objects, so conceived, are truly full. This is what Cage must mean when, right after explaining that there is no such thing as silence because something is always happening that makes a sound, he says "No one can have an idea once he starts really listening.

For a person to become silent is to become opaque for the other; somebody's silence opens up an array of possibilities for interpreting that silence, for imputing speech to it. The ways in which this opaqueness induces anxiety, spiritual vertigo, is the theme of Bergman's Persona. The theme is reinforced by the two principal attributions one is invited to make of the actress' deliberate silence. Considered as a decision relating to herself, it is apparently the way she has chosen to give form to the wish for ethical purity; but it is also, as behavior, a means of power, a species of sadism, a virtually inviolable position of strength from which to manipulate and confound her nurse-companion, who is charged with the burden of talking.

But it's possible to conceive of the opaqueness of silence more positively, free from anxiety. For Keats, the silence of the Grecian urn is a locus for spiritual nourishment: "unheard" melodies endure, whereas those that pipe to "the sensual ear" decay. Silence is equated with arresting time "slow time". One can stare endlessly at the Grecian urn. Keats' poem quite logically ends in a statement that will seem, if one hasn't followed his argument, like empty wisdom, like banality. Time, or history, becomes the medium of definite, determinate thought.

Behind the appeals for silence lies the wish for a perceptual and cultural clean slate. And, in its most hortatory and ambitious version, the advocacy of silence expresses a mythic project of total liberation. What's envisaged is nothing less than the liberation of the artist from himself, of art from the particular art work, of art from history, of spirit from matter, of the mind from its perceptual and intellectual limitations. What a few people know now is that there are ways of thinking that we don't yet know about.

Nothing could be more important or precious than that knowledge, however unborn. The sense of urgency, the spiritual restlessness it engenders cannot be appeased.

Surely, it's some of that energy which has spilled over into the radical art of this century. Through its advocacy of silence, reduction, etc. Silence is a strategy for the transvaluation of art, art itself being the herald of an anticipated radical transvaluation of human values. But the success of this strategy must mean its eventual abandonment, or at least its significant modification.

Silence is a prophecy, one which the artist's actions can be understood as attempting to fulfill and to reverse. But can the whole enterprise become an act of bad faith if the artist knows this, too? A famous quotation: "Everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly. Everything that can be said at all can be said clearly. But not everything that can be thought can be said. Notice that Wittgenstein, with his scrupulous avoidance of the psychological issue, doesn't ask why, when, and in what circumstances someone would want to put into words "everything that can be thought" even if he could , or even to utter whether clearly or not "everything that could be said.

Police and the Blue Wall of Silence

Of everything that's said, one can ask: why? Including: why should I say that? And: why should I say anything at all? To this I would add the thesis that, strictly speaking, nothing that's said is true. Though one can be the truth, one can't ever say it. Among its many uses, speech can enlighten, relieve, confuse, exalt, infect, antagonize, gratify, grieve, stun, animate. While language is regularly used to inspire to action, some verbal statements, either written or oral, of a highly stylized kind are themselves used as the performing of an action as in promising, swearing, bequeathing.

Another use of speech, if anything more common than that of provoking actions: speech provokes further speech. But speech can silence, too. This indeed is how it must be; without the polarity of silence, the whole system of language would fail. One use for silence: certifying the absence or renunciation of thought. This use of silence is often employed as a magical or mimetic procedure in repressive social relationships. It should not be confused with the practice of certain monastic disciplines, such as the Trappist order, in which silence is both an ascetic act and a bearing witness to the condition of being perfectly "full.

Another, apparently opposed, use for silence: certifying the completion of thought. Karl Jaspers: "He who has the final answers can no longer speak to the other, as he breaks off genuine communication for the sake of what he believes in.

Still another use for silence: providing time for the continuing or exploring of thought. Notably, speech closes off thought. But if one decides an issue isn't closed, it's not. This is presumably the rationale behind the voluntary experiments in silence that some contemporary spiritual athletes, lIke Buckminister Fuller, have undertaken, and the element of wisdom in the otherwise mainly authoritarian, philistine silence of the orthodox Freudian psychoanalyst.

Silence keeps things "open. Still another use for silence: furnishing or aiding speech to attain its maximum integrity or seriousness. Everyone has experienced how, when punctuated by long silences, words weigh more; they become almost palpable. Or how, when one talks less, one starts feeling more fully one's physical presence in a given space. Unmoored from the body, speech deteriorates.

It becomes false, inane, ignoble, weightless.

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Silence can inhibit or counteract this tendency, providing a kind of ballast, monitoring and even correcting language when it becomes inauthentic. Given these perils to the authenticity of language which doesn't depend on the character of any isolated statement or even group of statements, but on the relation of speaker, speech, and situation , the hypothetical project of saying clearly "everything that can be said" suggested by Wittgenstein's remarks looks fearfully complicated.

How much time would one have?

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