Silence is Where the Magic Happens

In the book The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce, the mother has many conversations with her son about music. In one case, she explains that music is about silence.

“Music comes out of silence and at the end it goes back to it. It’s a journey, You see?”

But the young boy does not see, so his mother puts Beethoven’s 5th on the record player.

“Brace yourself,” she says. “Here comes the four most famous notes in history.”

Da da da dum. The sound crept out of the silence like a great beast emerging from the sea. Da da da dum.

“You heard that little pause in the middle?”


“You see? You see what Beethoven’s doing? There is a silence inside the music, too. It’s like reaching a hole. You don’t know what will happen next.”

Over time, the mother and the son listen to many songs together. He begins to see that it is in the silence spaces where the magic of a song happens. It is the pauses, the brief silences, that give the song its melody. These little silences can be powerful, magical moments and critical parts of a song.  

This idea got me thinking a lot about my current life situation.  I am experiencing a pause in my life right now, between being married and not married. I left husband and my house and am living in a small, one bedroom apartment with used and borrowed furniture, starting over. I feel like a new college grad except I’m 51, probably 25 years older than most of my neighbors. I’m living alone and it is mostly a very quiet existence. I had quite a “Da da da dum” life before this and now I’m dwelling in a silent pause waiting for the next “Da da da dum” to happen.

There is very little outside noise to distract me from what’s really going on inside me, so I’m forced to face my flaws, face the truth about what happened in my marriage and what I’ve done. I haven’t just reached a hole, I’m actually doing some serious excavating myself. There are a lot of things coming to the surface now. At times, all that I am digging up makes me feel really sad and very lonely. It is painful pause and I’m beginning to wonder what it all means and how long it will last.

Will it last a month?

A year?

Maybe until I welcome it.

Embrace it.

Be still and know.

Maybe that’s a meaningful way to see this. The “Da da da dums” are the action parts of life, the outer world, the doing. This pause is a time to be still and know. Yes, it happens to be a pain-filled silence. But looking at it as a time to dig into my inner world–to gain some knowledge about myself and to discern God’s direction for my life–gives the silence meaning.

Like music, my life is a journey in and out of silences. I’m beginning to think this pause feels bigger than a silence between notes. It feels more like a silence between two songs. What will the next song be? I think it will be defined by the work I do during this silence. All this digging has got to lead somewhere.  I need this pause because this is where the magic happens, which I will bring to the next song. And I hope that song sounds less like Beethoven’s 5th and more like his “Ode to Joy.”

Karin Collin
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