171214 Quieting - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

Let's call it a personal improvement project. A way of making the world better.  I'm being quieter.

Not here, necessarily, but in my personal life, and especially in groups, especially with people I don't particularly know. 

Part of this is personal. When I think of moments that I regret, it's usually a time when I've said more than needed – very rarely because I said too little. So a part of saying less is being more selective, more discerning, and saying the right things with the right reasons at the right time. This is a work in progress, as is everything, but it has been worthwhile. 

Part of this is political. I am a reasonably well-spoken white man whose accent matches the area where I live. Anything that I say will be given a certain weight and consideration that is not given to others, an advantage that I haven't earned and don't deserve. The opinions and perspectives of people like me are so deeply coded into this society that there's hardly a need for me to add to them, while the space to hear other experiences is so vanishingly small. I may not be qualified to enlarge that space, and I may not be the best person to protect it, but at the very least I can impinge on it as little as possible.

Quieting is part of my practice of non-agression. It's the knowledge that there's nothing wrong with silence, that I don't have to be the wittiest or wisest person in the room. It's listening to other people's words without hearing them only as a call  to respond, elaborate, refute, or expound on my own ideas. But – and this is the tricky part – it's also not about making other people do the hard work of always having to go first. It's not about avoiding responsibility or sheltering myself from the vulnerability that comes from being honest and expressive.

Those too, doing the work and taking the risks, are also part of the practice of creating a better society, one interaction at a time. 


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