There is an old folk tale that tells of a man who was walking along a beach. He heard someone calling him. Surprised he turned around and saw no one except a skull mounted on a post. To his great astonishment, the skull said “I only called you”.
The man asked the skull “It is strange to see you mounted here and yet speak. Can you speak again to clear my doubt?”
“Why not?” the skull replied.
The man, without waiting to know how it came to be planted there, rushed to the king to tell him of the strange spectacle of a talking skull. The king who was busy in a meeting with courtiers stopped it and hurried with the man to the place where the skull was mounted. The man asked “I have come with the king. Please speak to him as you did to me”
The skull remained stubbornly silent despite his persuasions. Enraged the king ordered that the man be beheaded, and his head mounted on a post adjacent to skull.
After they left leaving the man’s head on the post, the skull asked “why did you talk to king unnecessarily?”
When he asked what in bewilderment, the skull said “I had also talked like you and am in this predicament”
The moral of the story is we all talk needlessly and sometimes get into trouble. Most of the things we talk are already known to others as we are not privy to some exclusive news. We all read the newspapers and watch TV and have information only from such sources. We have no extra knowledge to throw greater light say on a missing plane or the outcome of elections, the down turn in economy, the high scale of corruption or the changes in climate unless professionally involved in them.. Yet we repeat the same news we read or listen to others without shedding any new insight or solutions that are anyway beyond our realm. If at the end of the day when one honestly rewinds all the conversations had and evaluates their necessity, one would find that 90% of it if not spoken would not have mattered. When one falls sick and does not talk to others for a week, has there been any big loss to others? Important information find their way whether one likes it or not.
This does not refer to serious discussions that take place in meetings, seminars or conferences where one must pay acute attention to what is being said and speak only where one can meaningfully contribute to the subject. More often than not people talk concurrently or at tangent.
People are normally uncomfortable with silence unless they are busy with some work. At other times when there are no serious thoughts and when mind is not engaged, the mouth readily takes over. Most of us like to hear our own voice and all of us sing while having shower. So talking unsolicited generally on many things under the sun, more often inane, is an interesting past time.
Young lovers talk sweet nothings and where words have no meanings. It is their hearts that communicate with each other and words just demonstrate their love. When young kids talk, there is no meaning except their fondness. Speak from the hearts if you have something to say. If someone wants to hear you because you know the subject well, speak on what you known where your ideas are clear.
This does not mean there is no place for exchange of pleasantries and one should sit morose even in company. Yes, conversation is a lubricant that keeps friendship working well. But much of the conversations we make are meaningless and irrelevant as many lack listening skills. They are usually space fillers when there is a pause in the conversation.
Great sages, spiritual seekers and Mahatma Gandhi laid great stress on ‘maun’ silence and went about their usual work without talking. Silence gave them the strength both spiritual and physical and freed their minds from the mundane to acquiring insights and wisdom. One can start even with an hour of silence daily and gradually increase. It will surely enable one to attune his mind to his inner self better. The bottom line is to talk less.
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Unknown