Some things aren’t spoken about because they are secrets that need keeping; some people are quiet because they have nothing to say. Some are silent because there are times in which only silence allows us to hear the important things; some are never quiet and their voices rattle like pebbles in an empty can.
While silence may lead to the gate of self-reflection, speech opens the door of human relations. To be cut off from ordinary conversation is to be cut off from the pleasures and benefits of companionship. In true conversation there are no roles but there are rules of respect; in true conversation there is no domination, only equals talking. A conversation is a free and open exchange-of thoughts and feelings. It isn’t the building up of ideas that count as much as weaving the fabric of human intercourse.
To converse is to belong with others. True conversation is fitting into the heart of another and letting others into yours. Conversation lifts the veil of isolation. Without conversation we are disconnected from the human community; with conversation we find a place where we belong.
Here is a anecdote about Helen Keller, who was stricken blind and deaf at less than two years old and was plunged into isolation. So frustrated by not being able to communicate, she threw daily tantrums and became an angry child.
Her life changed dramatically when Annie Sullivan became her teacher. Sullivan taught Keller by finger spelling on her pupil’s palm. In her autobiography, Keller writes: “Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten-a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!
“Before my teacher came to me, I didn’t know that I am. I lived in a world that was a no-world. I cannot hope to describe adequately that unconscious, yet conscious time of nothingness. I did not know that I knew aught, or that I lived or acted or desired. I had neither will nor intellect. I was carried along to objects and acts by a certain blind impetus. I can remember all this, not because I knew that it was so, but because I have tactual memory. It enables me to remember that I never contracted my forehead in the act of thinking. I never viewed anything beforehand or chose it. I also recall tactually the fact that never in a start of the body or a heart-beat did I feel that I loved or cared for anything. My inner life, then, was a blank without past, present, or future, without hope or anticipation.”
Now Keller could converse and in that conversation become connected to others.