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Letter: There’s plenty of time

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Many years ago at a high school graduation ceremony, four seniors selected by their classmates delivered speeches for the occasion. Each speech would revolve around a popular song. One of the students chose “The Sound of Silence” written by Paul Simon and performed by Simon and his partner Art Garfunkel in the mid-1960s.

People have always speculated about writers’ and artists’ intentions. In June 1966, Art Garfunkel introduced the song’s meaning like this: “the inability of people to communicate with each other, and not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so that what you see around you is people who are unable to love each other.”

The inability to communicate is frustrating. How else can we relate with each other? Communication is one part speaking and two parts hearing and listening. Failing to listen is the number one communication problem in the world. We have been reaping that damage since time began. Interestingly, Garfunkel linked failure to communicate with failure to love.

The failure to communicate is a failure to listen that leads down a path of hopelessness. There is no love or light in hopelessness. Simon began the song, “Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping. And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains within the sound of silence.”

In darkness the songwriter restlessly dreamt of walking alone down narrow streets of cobblestone beneath the halo of a street lamp when he turned his collar to the cold and damp. Just then his eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light that split the night and touched the sound of silence. In that flash of naked light, the songwriter saw ten thousand people, maybe more talking without speaking, hearing without listening, and people writing songs that voices never shared because no one dared disturb the sound of silence.

Even though Simon’s song nailed U.S. and world conditions of the 1960s and early 70s, it still rings true in today’s world, maybe more so. Who wants to disturb the sound of silence? Who wants to risk escalation?

“Fools,” said the songwriter, “You do not know silence like a cancer grows. Hear my words that I might teach you. Take my arms that I might reach you.” But his words, like silent raindrops fell and echoed in the wells of silence.

How many have seen the problems, the cancers that are eating away lives while all we do is reach out to help those walking in darkness, never hearing the truth? Then the songwriter watched as “the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made.” What happens when the people make little neon gods that flash and glitter? People continue today to make their own custom gods of truth deep in the wells of silence.

The songwriter said, “And the sign flashed out its warning in the words that it was forming. And the sign said, ‘The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls … and whispered in the sound of silence.’” The sound of silence passes from one generation to another through sermons and songs to those who are too young to know. Everyone believes the lie, “There’s plenty of time.”

Daniel L. Gardner is a columnist who lives in Starkville, MS. You may contact him at

(Thoughts? Submit a letter to the editor here.)

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