When I was younger, my mother would tell me, “You need to learn what it means to be silent.” I took this as an insult. For me, talking was exciting, especially about my own thoughts and feelings. I have been told that my eyes gleam with enthusiasm when I speak, so to be silent meant willfully dimming my light. It was hard for me to understand what joy could come from silence. That was then; now I have come to appreciate the power of silence.
In the Buddhist culture there is a concept called noble silence, in which practitioners stay completely silent for a period of time, even when gathered in large groups. The technique is used to quiet the mind and condition the body to bring forth the discipline of right speech, so when one does speak, it is from an authentic place that does not harm or cause suffering to another person. The general idea is to allow more room for thinking before speaking.
She is always seen and she will allow you to hear her if she wants: that is empowerment.
In today’s social media era, silence is often seen as an enemy to one’s reputation. For a person not to update the world on their day or the many happenings in their life might bring on speculative talk about what could be going wrong in their life. This is especially true for celebrities. But one of the millennium’s most famous celebrities is showing us what it means to take back her power in the form of silence.
In a recent New York Times article entitled, “Beyoncé is Seen but Not Heard,” style writer Matthew Schneier points out how in recent years the megastar has remained nearly mute about her life by only giving snippets of self-directed interviews. Even though she is featured on the cover of the current September issue of Vogue – the biggest issue of the year – she did not do an interview for the magazine. The only article about her in the issue is a short “think piece” by Pulitzer Prize winner Margo Jefferson. We are left still wanting to know who she is and how she remains so powerful an icon.
Even when she graced the world with her dazzling HBO-produced documentary, Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream, we only received a tiny slice of her life – only the part she wanted us to see. We may think she is playing some media game with us, but look closer and it becomes clear that she only says and does what is necessary. Her Instagram page (with 43.5 million followers) is full of pictures without captions, she nixed her twitter page sometime back in 2013, and when she drops her music, it’s not preceded by over-the-top marketing campaigns anymore. She is everywhere and yet inaccessible. She is always seen and she will allow you to hear her if she wants: that is empowerment.
The Buddhists are on to something. Silence is a prodigious teacher of life. In silence there is an energy that surrounds you and brings a sense of actualization and discovery. When I talk, I am trying my best to connect with the person I am conversing with, but in silence I am given the honor of connecting with myself. In that connection, I find the potency of my being and my authentic, private self.
In silence, Beyoncé has reasserted control over her very public life. Though she has certainly earned bragging rights, and the whole world is listening, she stays silent and gathers a quiet power all to herself. She is free to do as she pleases, and she’ll speak when she’s ready.