My family and I spent that past few days up north skiing, and after visiting a nearby marina and seeing all of the gorgeous New England-style cottages there, I came to the conclusion that we must have stumbled through some magical portal into Movieland, and we were secretly on the set of Dan in Real Life.
It was amazing how beautiful the entire area was around the ski resort, in that mystical not-quite-real sort of way. Because it was so cold, as soon as you got out of the central tourist trap area, there was literally nobody around. Half the stores were closed for the season, and very few of the cottages were inhabited. It’s generally a summer-tourist area, so going in the winter was a bit surreal. Ice caked the harbor and snow fell in little flurries that got caught in my hair and looked like powdered sugar on the ground. There was such a silence, outside of the gentle bubbling of a nearby fountain, that I could actually hear myself think for once.
It’s what you hear in silence that really determines who and what you are, and what I heard was peace. And dreams (cheesy, I know). And if we truly had been in Movieland, this song probably would have been playing in the background, just because it always makes me feel so peaceful and happy:
I live a pretty stressful life. We all do. It’s a symptom of the age we live in, with the internet and Smartphones and billboards and someone always shouting at us that “Whatever’s wrong, it isn’t my fault!” (Don’t get me started on the presidential candidates.)
And even though I go through life mostly happy, there’s something truly magical about getting to slow down for a moment to be quiet. Something breathtaking about getting to breathe.
One of my favorite effects in movies is when they stop the music, stop the dialogue, and just let the scene be silent. (If you’ve ever seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, there’s a particularly powerful sequence of this right after **spoilers** Harry finds out that he has to die in order to beat Voldemort.)
Why is it that silence holds such power over us, yet we reach for things that make so much noise? Why is our first thought to turn on the TV, our iPods; to start shouting rather than work something out? I think the song “Eet” by Regina Spektor phrases the answer best in the line “you’re using your headphones to drown out your mind,” because isn’t that so true? We spend so much of our life moving, moving, moving — trying to avoid silence, and being still, because we’re scared of thinking.
I’ll admit to doing it, myself. I almost always listen to some sort of song before going to sleep each night, and even back when I was little, I remember making my parents leave a TV in my room so I could watch VHS tapes until I fell asleep for a while.
Thinking is terrifying. We’re scared of what we might think of, and how it might change us, change our perceptions of ourselves, change how other people will see us. We all spend our entire lives building up these walls and these masks, and in silence, these are torn down, torn away. We are exposed.
But the truth is, there is nothing to be afraid of but that which you allow yourself to fear. As Marianne Williamson puts it, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” FDR was right when he said “the only thing to fear is fear itself.”
So anyway, to wrap this all up: Don’t be afraid of silence. Embrace it. Clear your mind and allow yourself to feel rather than to think for a moment, and then take the time to sit back and think about all of it.
Never be afraid of yourself. Once you’ve conquered that, there’s nothing left to fear.
Dan in Real Life trailer:
Ignoring how awful this trailer is, it actually is a really good movie.