The blog began in 2012. I was on vacation in London, and one sleepless night I left a long comment about poetry on somebody else’s blog. I enjoyed writing it and thought I might have something to say myself, and about a month later wordandsilence.com was born, with a long essay about the poet T. S. Eliot. At some point it also became a place to post pieces from my own books, as well as original essays.
While I still try to promote my own poetry and essays on the blog, the website is now devoted almost entirely to posting excerpts of the best writing by others that I have found on literature, religion, and history. This includes just about anything I can find: original source material, translations, interviews, poems or excerpts from stories or novels, photography and art, or passages from the work of historians.
To be honest, at this point I see it as the duty of anyone who lives even part of their life online, to push back however they can against the disease that lives best online: misinformation, in all its forms. (One of the best concrete examples of misinformation works comes from this essay in the London Review of Books) While I don’t believe in the old adage which asserts that merely knowing about history will help us from repeating those mistakes, I do think a better knowledge of how history works—of how decisions are made, of how people are pitted against each other, of how art is made, of how advances in culture and technology actually take place—cannot be anything but a positive.
For instance, I’ve begun posting a series of excerpts from books on more recent human evolution: the origins simply of standing upright, of human communities, of language and music, and of course of art, as seen in the Paleolithic caves of France and Spain. Perhaps it’s just me, but seeing how slowly and how carefully human beings became aware of their surroundings, and became able to manipulate those surroundings, and then supply those surroundings with meaning using various forms of expression… well, this seems an antidote to any overarching theories that abound today, from racism to nationalism, or proclamations whether political or religious (or indeed cultural) of one exclusive truth, one way of living, one way of thinking, one way of finding meaning. All of these require huge theories, one-page summaries, no gradation, and the obviousness of Hollywood special effects. But if history teaches anything, it is slow accumulation and variety and uncertainty, and that orthodoxy of any kind is a fiction. We are always changing and adapting.
And lastly, in posting the best works I’ve found from other writers, and even essays on the origins of language at all, I hope it might occur to someone finding me online to wonder: is Twitter, cable news, the comments section on YouTube (or wherever), or the easy theories whether Left or Right… is this really the best we can do, with a language and an expressive ability that took our ancestors so long to develop?
Submitted by: Tim Miller