Gordon Hempton said that “Silence is the poetics of space.”
I love the images that this sentence evokes, a merging of the physical and linguistic, and this naming of the place where it exists. This silence is not inactive – it implies the actions of listening and observing underneath the subjective noun function. This silence is a form of communion.
In his essay, “Listening to the Patient”, which argues for literary study in medical school, Dr. John Stone writes that,
Physicians and writers draw on the same sources: the human encounter, people and their indelible stories. And the works of both depend on skillful use of the senses. As with Holmes, success rests with the powers of observation.
This text which began in an examination booklet for grade 12 students at the beginning of my career revisits me with new insights gained over time. This was created before social media, before Google Classroom and before online accessibility exploded in education. I’m reading this now and thinking about the need for silences, for listening, for observing in these new spaces of learning.
Today, I’m leaving some space for silences.