The World of Silence

Things and Silence

   We have said, in the first chapter, that silence
belongs absolutely to the world of being, that it is
characterized by pure being. The ontological power of
silence enters into the things that are in silence. The
ontic in things is strengthened by silence; the exploitable
in things is far from the world of silence. It is no match
for silence; it can do nothing against silence.
   Being and silence belong together. Ages no longer
related to silence, like the modern age, do not bother
about the ontic in things. They are concerned only with
the profitability, the exploitability, and the revolutionary
possibilities in things.

           The older peoples in which a man was more and became
           less, had a more childlike and a more modest and humble
           sense of the gifts of heaven. (Jean Paul)

   The whole of a thing is in its being, but only a small
part of the total being of a thing is taken up into its
becoming, and the word that describes becoming only
approaches the reality of a thing in so far as parts of the
being of a thing are in the becoming. "Being is related
to becoming, as truth is to fancy." (Plato  Timaeus). True,
it seems today that Existentialism is concerned with
being, but it is not real being, but only parts, attributes of
being, such as dread, care, death, insecurity—with which
it is concerned; and these are artificially enlarged, made
into absolutes, so that in fact they swallow up real being

   Every object has a hidden fund of reality that comes
from a deeper source than the word that designates the
object. Man can meet this hidden fund of reality only
with silence. The first time he sees an object, man is silent
of his own accord. With his silence, man comes into
relationship with the reality in the object which is there
before ever language gives it a name. Silence is his tribute
of honor to the object.
   This hidden fund of reality cannot be taken up into
human language.
   Man does not lose anything because he cannot express
this hidden fund of reality in words. Through this
literally unspeakable fund of reality man is brought into
relationship with the original state of things before the
advent of language, and that is important. Furthermore,
this hidden fund of reality is a sign that things are not
created and not combined by man himself. If things were
due to man's creation, he would know them absolutely in

   In a world in which silence is still an active force, a
thing is related more with silence than with other things.
It stands on its own, belongs to itself more than in the
world without silence, where things are interconnected
but no longer in relation to silence. In the world of silence
a thing offers its being to man directly; it stands immediate-
ly before him as though it had just been brought by a
special act out of the silence. It stands out clearly against
the background of silence. There is no need to add any-
thing to it to make it clear.

   The eye that comes from the broad surface of silence
sees the whole, and not merely the parts, because it sees
with the broad, all-embracing gaze of silence itself. The
word that comes out of silence embraces the object with the
original power that it receives from silence, and the object
adds something of this power to its own substance.
   When the world has lost its original relationship with
silence it becomes pure sound and can touch only the
surface of the object; it merely adds a label to the object.
These word-sounds and word-labels then lead a life of
their own amongst themselves as though the things they
purport to describe did not exist at all. The things also
lead a life of their own, thing with thing; for, when the
word has been destroyed by separation from silence, it is
no longer able to contain the thing it describes, and the
thing becomes detached from the word. It loses all pro-
portion and exceeds its own natural limits. Thing begins
to produce thing (as in the world of today), as if man no
longer existed at all. No thing seems newly created any 
longer—not even new things, since all things are like a
mere particle in an everlasting succession of things.
Therefore every thing seems boring and superfluous.
   Things themselves turn away from man. The old
statues of the gods in a museum, for example: they stand
there sometimes as though they were conspiring against
man. They stand detached like a white wall with nothing
to say to man. That is the uncanny and the satanical
thing about this detached world of things: it impresses
man merely by its size and mass. But pure, detached
factuality is fatal. It erodes and destroys the world's
   Two menacing structures face each other today: the
non-world of verbal machinery, which is out to dissolve
everything into the noise of words, and the non-world of
mechanized things, which, detached from language, is
waiting only for a loud explosion to create a language of its
own. Just as a mute sometimes cries so loud that he seems
to be tearing his own flesh in an attempt to achieve the
power of speech, so things crack and explode today as
though they were trying to burst forth into sound—the
sound of doom.