Time and Silence
Time is interspersed with silence.
Silently one day moves onward to the next. Each
day appears unnoticed as if God had just put it down out
of His own quietness.
Silently the days move through the year. They move
in the rhythm of silence: the content of the day is noisy,
but the advent of the day is silent.
It is not so much the equal measure of the hours, which
is the same in every day, which connects one day with
another, but the equal measure of the silence with which
each day is newly born.
The seasons move in silence through the changing year.
Spring does not come from winter; it comes from the
silence from which winter came and summer and autumn.
One morning in spring the cherry tree stands full of
blossom. The white blossoms seem not to have grown on
the tree but to have fallen through the sieve of silence. No sound
was heard; they glided gently along the silence and
it was that that made them white.
The birds sang in the tree. It was as if the silence had
shaken out the last sounds from itself. Birdsong is like the
picked-up notes of silence.
Suddenly the green appears on the trees. As one tree
stands green beside another, it is as if the green had
passed silently from one tree to another, as words pass
from one to another in a conversation.
Spring comes suddenly: man looks into the distance as
if he could still see the harbinger who brought the spring
in silence. In spring a man's eyes gaze into the distance.
The reality of spring is so gentle that it does not need to
break through the solid walls of time with noise. It simply
seeps through the chinks of time and suddenly appears.
Children playing on the square are the first to come
through the chinks. Even before the blossoms they come
along with their balls in the air and their marbles on the
They suddenly appear not as from their parents'
houses but as it were out of the chinks, along with spring.
They throw their balls high up in the air; they shout
aloud, these first harbingers of spring showing the way to
the things of spring that follow on behind.
Behind all the sounds of spring is the silence of time.
It is a wall throwing back the children's words like balls
from the walls of the houses.
The blossoms on the trees make themselves so light, as
if they wanted to settle on the silence, unnoticed by the
silence itself; to be carried into the next spring in the
ever-moving circle of the seasons, just as birds settle down
on ships to be carried farther on.
Then, quite suddenly, the summer arrives.
The air is hot with the violence of its invasion. As if
they had burst out from a covering, the things of summer
suddenly appear in their fullness. But no one heard the
summer come. It too was brought in silence. The cover-
ing enclosing the fullness of summer burst open in the
silence. No one heard a sound when time put the summer
down with a violent thud. Everything happened silently.
But now summer has appeared, everything begins to
sound: the animal voices are stronger, people throw up
their words like balls; out of the gardens and taverns
voices tumble as if the room inside were too narrow for
them. It is the triumph of the sounds of summer over
Silence is now hidden in the forest. The forest is like a
green tunnel leading from the noise of summer into the
silence. And as one sometimes sees lights in a tunnel, so
the deer of the forest flash like lights illuminating the silence.
Silence is now in a hiding place, but at any moment it can
come out and cover everything again. In the noon of a
hot summer's day every sound of summer is absorbed by
the all-possessing silence. It is sometimes as if the summer
stands quite still. It stand so fast, as if it would never
move again. Its image seems to be impressed on and to
remain in the air.
Then after silence has taken a new breath the autumn
Like birds clustering thick on the wires before their
departure, the apples sit on the branches. Here and there
when an apple falls to the ground there comes a moment of
stillness. It is as if the silence had held out its hand to try
and catch the apple.
The colors of the leaves and fruits become more vivid.
It is almost as though, if one were to tear them, a sound
would come out of them. The dark blue berries of the
grapes are like the heads of crochets. The song of the
harvesters lies concentrated in the dark crochet-heads of
Everything moves closer to speech in the autumn: the
silence itself seems to sound in between the songs of the
In winter silence is visible: the snow is silence become
The space between heaven and earth is occupied by
silence; heaven and earth are merely the edge of the snowy
Snowflakes meet in the air and fall together on to the
earth, which is already white in the silence. Silence
People stand silent on the side of the street. Human
language is covered by the snow of silence. What remains
of man is his body standing in the snow like a milestone of
silence. People stand still and silence moves between
Time is accompanied by silence, determined by silence.
Its quietness comes from the silence that is enclosed
within it. But the sound of measurable time, the rhythmic
beat of time, is drowned by the silence.
Time is expanded by silence.
If silence is so preponderant in time that time is com-
pletely absorbed by it, then time stands still. There is
then nothing but silence: the silence of eternity.
When there is no more silence left in time, then the
noise of its as it were mechanically flowing movement
becomes audible. Then there is no time, only the
impetus of its onward flow. Men and things are then as it
were pushed on by the movement of time, taken up into
its mechanical onward flow, no longer independent, but
merely a constituent part of time itself. Men, things, and
time compete against each other as in a race; as if they
existed only as competitors in the race—"the race
against time" and the race of time against men and
Without the silence that is in time, there would be no
forgetting and no forgiving. Just as time itself enters into
silence, so what happens in time enters also; and therefore
man is led by the silence which is in time to forgetting
When time has been completely absorbed by silence,
in Eternity, there can be nothing but the great forgetting
and forgiving, for Eternity is permeated by the great
silence into which everything that has ever happened falls
It is true, the spirit stands above time and above the
silence that is in time; it is the spirit that determines
forgetting and forgiving. But it is easier for the spirit
to forgive and to forget when it meets the silence in time:
through the silence the spirit is reminded of Eternity,
which is the great silence and forgiving.