If you have been a follower of this blog and our work for any amount of time, you probably have noticed that over the past few weeks our posts have been sporadic. This has been intentional. We are not going anywhere. The infrequency of our blog represents a concept that I have been exploring over the past few months: the power and utility of the hiatus.
A hiatus is generally defined as a pause or gap in a series or sequence of events. This pause can be the result of many things. In the case of bloggers, writers, and freelancers, a hiatus can be taken to reignite the creative fire. After all, who wants to read something that is of no value or interest to you? Sometimes, life gets in the way. Just like you, we have families and personal and professional lives. In life, things simply happen. The hiatus can also be an offramp to other creative avenues, which is the path that I have taken over the past couple of weeks.
I have pretty much abandoned social media, with a couple of notable exceptions. I did not leave social media because of my writing. I left social media for two other reasons. First and foremost, I think platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are toxic environments. This was closely related to my belief that social media has the propensity to poison martial artists. This led to the second reason for my brief hiatus. The arts teach us to approach life with humility. We strive to help our fellow man as much as possible. We seek to be better versions of ourselves with every passing moment. The noise and distraction of social media often mutes these endeavors and leads to the opposite aims of martial arts training.
My goal as a blogger and a martial arts and self-protection coach is to build people up instead of tearing them down. It does not take a great deal of fortitude to criticize someone behind a keyboard. I say this because I watched countless videos of people that were giving their best efforts in their chosen arts in online videos. What I witnessed was horrific. The criticism outweighed the encouragement by a hundred-fold. Because of this, I have a confession to make to you, my reader: It poisoned me. It briefly drained my motivation to share my experience and research with you. As I have taken a step back from an online presence for a couple of weeks, a miraculous thing happened. It was like I was given the antidote for a deadly venom. The ideas for my blog came flooding back. I wanted, and needed, to write again.
I needed a hiatus.
We live in a world that is full of noise. Because of the inundation of technology in our lives, we falsely assume that we must hear and be heard constantly. Today, we believe that if we are not heard, we will be instantly forgotten. This has a tremendous impact on our emotions, our self-esteem, and our perceived standing amongst our peers, our friends, and yes… our beloved followers. We falsely believe that our value is based on being seen and heard on a quantitative measure versus a qualitative measure. As a result, the quality of our personal and professional lives has been dealt a blow with results that may be irreversible.
We now live in a world in which some groups tell us that “silence is violence.” In short, we must speak about grievances in society, and if we do not, we are part of the problem. Yet, this paradigm places the person in a very precarious position. If the perceived “correct” utterances are not made, then silence is then mandated by the aggrieved parties. So what are we to do? Remain silent, or run the risk of being silenced?
Simon and Garfunkel once explored the idea of silence in their song “The Sound of Silence.” Specifically, Art Garfunkel explained in an interview a meaning behind the lyrics to the song. He explained that because people lack the ability to communicate with one another, the ability to love and connect with one another has been lost. Let us return to the idea that silence is violence. Is silence a pathway to greater thought and the reincarnation of ideas and emotions, or should we say something… anything… with the assumption that the medium is greater than the message? This certainly seems to be the case today.
I took a brief hiatus and explored this idea, and it profoundly impacted my writing and martial arts training and teaching. In my training, I found that I was being drowned out by the noise of uninformed opinion. At the end of the day, as a martial artist you have to find your own path. It is up to you to determine the direction of that path, how you travel it, and at what pace you travel this path as you live your life. No one else can do this for you. You still have an obligation to your students. You still owe respect to your art and those that have come before you. But ultimately, it is up to you to determine how your art plays a role in your life in terms of its place in your life. As a result of my hiatus, I now have a clear direction in which I want to go with my teaching.
As for writing, I have found that many bloggers just feel the need to say anything. I was once counseled by a well-intentioned business coach that “content is credibility.” Put another way, content equals credibility just because it is content. This is not only false, it is obnoxious. As writers, as podcasters, and as vloggers, our content must make the lives of our audience better. Otherwise, we are contributing to the noise that can poison them. My hiatus hammered this idea home to me. If you don’t have anything of value to add to the lives of your audience, shut up.
Have you ever heard the sound of bleating sheep? That annoying, high pitched utterance that a herd of sheep makes will drive an otherwise sane person over the edge if exposed to it over an extended period of time. Transpose the sound of bleating sheep to the amount of information you partake of during your day. Is it helping you? Is it allowing you to help others? If not, take a short hiatus, reexamine yourself, and embrace the sound of silence.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
“The Sound of Silence,” Simon and Garfunkel