After you’ve watched it (it’s so worth it!), read my comments below.

I’ve watched this only once but I am sure I will watch it several times. I had to fight the urge to immediately begin writing this commentary in my head several times because the experience is so complete, encompassing, that I wanted to immediately share it and with my thoughts attached.

At first, it seems farcical, something out of an Orwell novel where some elite group says that silence has benefits the populace overlooks. And so the government forces the plebes into a music hall to listen to an orchestra that doesn’t play. In Orwell’s vision, the musicians would eventually become titular positions filled by cronies and favorites with some twist on the original theme that runs like, ‘These are the masters of silence and so they should be present an participate in the event so as to ensure the highest return of benefits for silence. It’s no longer necessary for the musicians to be able to play.’ But it’s precisely because it is silence with form and shape, with limits and context, that we are drawn in and overcome.

The faces of people involved in maintaining and protecting the silence, the musicians, the audience, the conductor, you, are all so engrossed in removing the self from an event that requires presence and input, effort and creation. But creating nothing at all and yet everything. I giggled originally when I first listened to the BBC host explain what was going to happen. It felt like a Monty Python skit for the by-election just spinning up. And then when the conductor reached the stage and took his place and stood, motionless to begin. I quieted myself. In a hall, in England, in the past, I watched as the silence forced me to be present in the hall, to project my sense of myself into the nothingness that was excruciatingly sweet and tender but which came down like a hammer on a finger already missing the nail. The smile on my face faded, the eyebrows rose, the breathing slowed. I didn’t want it to break either.

But what was I supposed to be thinking and feeling? And that’s when I fell head first into it. I felt what I felt and it was right. You felt what you felt and it was right. And we, both of us, gave a moment to something much much larger than ourselves. I listened to the slight coughs, the fidgeting, someone dropped their program, I think. I watched the faces of the players, the blank sheet of the music. The one word of every movement: ‘Tacet‘.

I was reminded that in Buddhism truth is linked to silence. In the third movement, I suddenly grasped it and my soul and thinking quieted. I forgot the time, I forgot the point, I forgot everything that was a measurement, a comparison, a revelation. I focused on nothing in particular and yet everything. I let the vagaries of the director’s taste, his experience, his skill, his charm, direct my attention to the mundanity of the scene. The clock. The paper. The silent strings. The silent man with his eyes closed. The inquisitive woman looking down from the balcony. I watched and marveled, not because they all sat there for the period, not that they all spent money to be in a room with others creating silence. I marveled because I had forgotten that in the void of the nothing is the substance of the everything. I reached a moment of purity not because it had all washed away and there was emptiness, but because it had all been revealed without words, without comprehension and without understanding. It simply was and it was marvelous.

I so desperately want to end this with something clever and sagacious. The ego in me says I can do it and that I should. The self in me says now, don’t bother, you’re going to fail at it and obscure it for others. Just let it be and live past the moment you watched this simple video of a simple idea that broke open your boundaries and lifted your heart to hoping once again for…nothingness. This one is on permanent rotation.