Written by Jelena Fu, Shanghai 2007

“Mummy, read a bedtime story to me”, you say as I’m tucking you into bed.

 “No, not tonight”, I reply.

“But, what are we going to do tonight”, you ask impatiently.

“We are going to listen to the silence, Mitsi, shuuuushhhh!

“But, it’s noisy, can’t you hear the cars, motorcycles…” you are noticing.

 “Yes, that’s the sound of the silence in Shanghai, it sounds differently in Serbia and Africa…”, I’m starting another philosophical briefing.

And while a dream slowly closes your eyes, as a mantra, I repeat:

 “Listen to the silence, Mitsi, listen to the silence!”

Yes, listen to the silence and you will hear more, silence that surrounds you speaks.

In Shanghai, it speaks in a million voices that reflect from skyscrapers’ walls, voices which melt into the asphalt and disappear among the cars. Not even one sound stands out; they all merge into the monotonous rumble of megalopolis, rumble that leaves no space for an individual, rumble in which you have to fit in, because even if you raise your voice, it will be overpowered in a blink of a second.

Once in a while, a sharp barking of a neighbor’s Prince Willy brings in a small piece of the Serbian silence.

You know, at Grandma’s, in Serbia, silence sounds as barking, as crickets, as a random car that occasionally drives by, sounds as the fresh and fragrant air entering a half-opened window at dawn, sounds as distinct voices of familiar people. Serbian silence is unbalanced, changeable, covers you with warmth, but also presses you with its weight.

Can you remember how the African silence sounds? Like loud eggs peddlers who come to the door, like threatening croak of “kunguru” birds, like raindrops on the tin roof. Over there, the silence is hot and slow; it drags itself around and sneaks into every home together with mosquitoes.

Listen to the silence, not only that one of the cities, but also the one in words.

Yes, words have their own silence.

It’s that unspoken accord floating in the air, or hiding between the lines on the paper, and it means more than the word itself.

Listen to the silence in people, try to feel it at least, it will open new paths and offer you hidden wisdom. Start by learning to listen to the silence that you’re hiding inside of yourself, with whom you fall asleep and wake up every morning, the silence that disappears and reappears, the one you can’t escape from.

Listen, listen to the silence, Mitsi!

 “If we speak, we’ve said what we didn’t want to say. If we keep quiet, we didn’t say anything, but we’ve kept in so much. Every word means as much as its silence.” (Branko Miljkovic)