It was during one of those interminable 7th grade pre-algebra classes, the kind where Mr. Castine would drone on about the importance of proper equation balancing, that I first truly understood the value of silence. As he waxed poetic about the merits of integers versus fractions, I found myself lost in a moment of pure, blissful quiet. It wasn’t that I had gone deaf or that the universe had mercifully muted him. No, it was a pause, a breath, a momentary lapse in his mathematical soliloquy. And in that silence, I heard… music.
Now, I’m not talking about the literal kind, like the time in college when I attempted to play my roommate’s drum set. Who knew that flailing your arms with wild abandon wasn’t the key to rhythmic success? Instead of a rockstar performance, it sounded more like a stampede of clumsy zebras.
But no… I’m not talking about that kind of music.
The kind of music I’m referring to exists between the notes, the rests that give meaning to the cacophony of life.
In that classroom, with its lingering scent of chalk dust and teen spirit (and not the cool Nirvana kind), I found an oasis of calm. The equations on the board, which usually looked like a secret code for launching missiles, suddenly made sense. It was as if the numbers were doing a little dance, twirling and bowing between the pauses.
This epiphany followed me out of Mr. Castine’s realm of integers and into the real world.
I started noticing the pauses everywhere: the breathless moment before a comedian delivers the punchline, the suspenseful silence in an elevator when someone’s stomach growls, and everyone tries not to laugh. These weren’t empty gaps—they were ripe with unspoken jokes and untold stories.
And this music follows me to this day.
When I’m stuck in traffic or waiting for the water to boil, it’s easy to succumb to irritation. These moments can feel like life’s little annoyances, tiny tests of patience in an already hectic world.
But here’s the thing… I have a choice.
I can view these pauses as frustrating delays, or I can choose to see them as something else entirely—as unexpected intermissions, as opportunities to tune into a different frequency.
In these pauses, there’s a chance to listen to the quiet, to find the subtle music of my thoughts and the world around me. It’s like stumbling upon a secret garden in the midst of a bustling city. Here, in the rhythm of idling engines or the gentle simmer of water, I can discover a new perspective.
Or I can at least try.
In these moments of silence, I often find myself back in Mr. Castine’s classroom, where the most profound lesson wasn’t about triangles or equations. It was about the spaces between the words, the pauses where life whispers its little secrets.