Art of Silence

March 12, 2017

“Nowadays, most men lead lives of noisy desperation.”
~ James Thurber

The quote above is from a short story written by humorist James Thurber in 1956.  His statement was a play on the famous quote by Henry David Thoreau, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

I can’t help but think how welcome even a few moments of quiet desperation would be these days.  The noise of chaos, confusion, panic, anger and fear seem to be on a constant loop.

Our bodies, minds and spirits cannot keep up this pace without collapsing.  Even Superman had to retreat at times to his fortress of solitude.  Unlike the immigrant from Krypton, we are human.  We mere earthlings need time to regroup and heal even more.

In times such as these, it is important to speak out against injustice, but, in order to stay healthy and whole, we must also carve out moments of genuine silence.

In California, where I live, there are a number of silent retreats which offer environments where one can spend a few days of recuperative solitude.  Floating therapy centers, with tanks full of warm salt water in which one can unplug and relax for an hour without gravity, noise or light, are opening throughout the state.  Even if you can’t get away for a short vacation retreat or day trip to a float spa, there are still benefits to observing regular moments of silence as a part of your everyday life:

A 2006 published study by Italian researchers found that it takes just two minutes of silence to release tension in the brain and body, based on observed changes in both blood pressure and blood circulation.

A 2015 study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Internal Medicine found that older adults experienced less insomnia, fatigue and depression after practicing mindfulness meditation.

A 2013 study from the journal Brain Structure and Function found that 2 hours of silence could create significant numbers of new brain cells in the hippocampus region, which assists with the storage of long term memories, spatial navigation and emotional responses.

Give yourself the gift of absolute silence, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day.  Turn off your phone.  Get out from behind the TV.  Close your computer.  Take a walk.  Do some conscious breathing.  Meditate or just sit under a tree in a quiet spot and stare up at the leaves as they dance in the breeze.  Don’t talk.  Don’t read.  Don’t even listen to music.

Unplug yourself from the machine of noisy desperation.

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.”

~ Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

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For those who, like Italian TV’s Detective Montalbano, like to observe silence while they enjoy a good meal, Lemon Roasted Cod with Tomatoes and Basil Pesto provides the perfect excuse to forego conversation at the dinner table.  Although, refraining from an emphatic “Yum!” may be difficult.

 

Lemon Roasted Cod with Tomatoes and Basil Pesto
Lemon halves create a flavorful rack on which to roast cod fillets.  This recipe is simple and the results are simply delicious.

Two wild Alaskan cod fillets (6oz each), thawed, if frozen
2 to 3 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1 fresh lemon
1 tablespoon of butter, softened
2 tablespoons of prepared basil pesto
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

 

Heat oven to 400°F

Pat cod to remove any excess water.

Cut tomatoes into wedges, place in an 8-inch or larger square baking pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.

Roast tomatoes, uncovered, at 400°F for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile:

Juice lemon and set aside juiced halves.

Combine lemon juice, pesto and softened butter in a shallow bowl.

Season the flour lightly with salt and pepper in another shallow bowl or plate.

Remove pan with tomatoes from oven.  Push tomatoes out to the edges of pan in a circle.

Cut juiced lemon halves in half to make four pieces and place in center of pan, peel side up.

Coat fish fillets in pesto mix, then flour.

Place prepped fish on top of lemon peels to keep above liquid.  Spoon remaining pesto mix, if any, over fish.

Return pan to oven and bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until fish is flaky but still firm.

Serve fish alongside tomatoes, with rice or potatoes and a green vegetable or salad.

Serves 2

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