Meditation On Sound and Thought

Looking at thoughts, they seem to have sound, be noisy, but there’s no sound. Even verbal thoughts are silent. What is it that makes it so they seem like spoken words? Why does imagined sound seem other than complete silence?

A car goes past the window, a crow calls from the phone wire, projecting its whole body through its beak, caw! caw! caw! For a moment afterwards these sounds can be ‘heard’ eidetically in our minds. In that brief window of memory they seem an exact copy, yet appear in silence, made of silence. They ‘seem’ like sounds.

A series of sounds seem to include these quick imaginal memories to facilitate coherence of hearing in series that gives a sense of time moving. Yet no actual sound ever happens in a future or past. Nothing is heard in time at all. The apparent movement of sound is a functionally beautiful illusion.

Next listen to a sound, suspending for a moment, the name, the analysis – a clock ticking; the amazing rich musicality of ordinary sound – a page turn, the husking leaf-like dry scrape. A jet flying over; undulating roar, roiling caverns and waves of deep sound curling over each other. The tapestry of tones played by breezes in a single tree; delicate hissing, paper-edge, tapping, fidelity to unique gusts of air.

But are even these ‘sound’ as we habitually think it to be? There’s a mild sense of pressure in the ears, an effort-sensation of the head, a feeling of straightness in the upper spine. A sensory image of directionality seeming to aim toward the origin of the sound and in the center of the ears. A subtle sensory image of a sound over there and a listener over here.

But is this thing heard also sound?

Or is it amplified sensory texture, like touching a smooth surface, or feeling the roughness of canvas or delicate wetness of bubbles? Only seeming to be felt in the center of the head, or in the ear canals?

I stepped through the bookstore door onto a crowded sidewalk.I was holding a paperback in my hand and at that moment a motorcycle growled down the street. I could both hear the sound and feel its vibration in my hand through the book.

The hearing is said to be noise but the vibration touch. Does the sound cause the vibration or vibration sound? But they are the same, why is one experienced as a silent feeling, a touching and the other as noise?

These are glimpses of how language creates a sense of things. How hearing is mixed with thinking and thinking is mixed with hearing and both give a feeling of sound.

Is sound really the experience we think it is? Or is it the experience, as directly found, a textural richness woven from the one ephemeral fabric? A cloth variously textured through different senses yet made of the one being/awareness.

Like touch sound is textured silence, clear space appearing briefly as form. The commonality of ‘just awareness’, unbroken and infinitely light reveals that the many and the problem of unity is all an illusion.

Thomas Martin

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