Biography of silence

The entrance is empty. Instrumental music runs through the stage. People move around. Hurried. Pablo d’Ors enters the auditorium. He sits down with her companion. People are arriving. A photographer on my left shoots. They test the microphone. Then it’s just silence. We look at each other. Pablo looks at us. He touches his face with both hands. He keeps watching us over his glasses. Drinks a glass of water. Now he looks at the empty spaces of the auditorium. The silence continues. People start looking at each other, wondering what’s going on. They examine it. Voices of people coming in. They shut up immediately when they notice the lack of words. Pazos on the smooth ground. Pablo exchanges words with Olga –her companion–. They laugh. He makes a sign that the presenter understands and hurries to accommodate his papers. The speakers are filled with their voices.

Priest and writer, I think. Then I hear about the Trilogy of Silence, formed by The Oblivion of Self, Biography of Silence and The Friend of the Desert, a novel that has just been reissued and that is dedicated to meditation. It all makes more sense. Not only for me, but for the rest of the audience who mostly don’t know who is Pablo d'Ors. They take out their mobile phones and google his name. I look at the faces of amazement, surprise, eyes that go from a luminous screen to the dais. The silence breaks. He takes the microphone from the middle table where he has left the empty glass. He rises from his seat. “I would like to begin by telling a story” –he touches his nose with his index finger, and goes on to say– “The story is about a man who took a vow of silence and lives in a forest”. It catches us. The public is alert. The subject of the story is in a forest.  It is a wise man who is visited by nearby villagers asking him to say a word. “Give us a word that will help us to live”, says Pablo. “And he says nothing”. The wise man said a word before he died. In the forest there were fifty people waiting for the word of the wise man. The word he spoke was: "Fire!". And the forest burned down… That’s all I came to tell you (Laughter)”.

Pablo d'Ors reflects on the importance of words in our lives and on their power to transform reality. “But silence changes us. Silence and word are the two sides of the coin”.

The talk will continue around questions about learning to know oneself through silence and not just through words; about what he calls the knowledge of simplicity and not of multiplicity; about the silence —stillness— of our bodies. The last minutes will be like the beginning: only silence. Trying to get rid of thoughts to receive others.

Pablo d'Ors offered the inaugural lecture of the Hay Joven, the section of the Hay Festival Arequipa dedicated exclusively to university students, which will be held in the coming days at the Catholic University of Santa María.