“’I think I’m supposed to say something, but I don’t know what,’ he said.
“’Then don’t say anything. Sometimes silence is the greatest wisdom.’”
– The volunteer and N’Kya in “The Volunteer” by Maurice Broaddus
Oh, so much this. Not only because I think it’s true, but because it reminds me of a cultural difference that’s highly personal to me. In my culture, silence is definitely seen differently than in the U.S. Over the years, I’ve struggled to explain it. This is the closest I’ve come so far:
For a Finn to be silent isn’t an indication of inattention or rudeness; far from it. Silently listening is a sign of interest, i.e., not interrupting before the other speaker has had a chance to finish. Silence means attention to the topic and respect towards another person’s life and space. (Finns need a larger bubble of personal space than other Europeans.) And silence can also be an indication of deep camaraderie.
In essece, then, silence means space, and space means respect.
Broaddus, Maurice. “The Volunteer.” In The Voice of Martyrs. Greenbelt, MD: Rosarium, 2017, p. 103.
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