I never cease to be amazed by the breadth and profundity of Thoreau’s observations on silence. Though obviously informed by his luminous engagement with nature, they step into other philosophical spaces as well. I recently came across this line from his 1851 journal, “the longest silence is the most pertinent question most pertinently put. Emphatically silent.” For me, the line resonates with Wittgenstein’s famous concluding sentence to the Tractatus: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent;” as well with a line from the extraordinary and wildy under-recognized early 20th Century American poet David Schubert. In one of his poems, Schubert wrote: “But the poem is just this, Speaking of what cannot be said to the person I want to say it.”
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.