Meher Baba at Paramount Film Studio, London, April 1932
Funny thing about silence. Humorist Josh Billings called it “one of the hardest arguments to refute” and the Slits called it a rhythm, while Francis Bacon called it “the virtue of fools” and six gay activists in New York in 1987 equated it with death. John Cage wrote a famous composition about it to show how much noise can be made at a concert with nobody playing their instruments.
Followers of Meher Baba have made a holiday out of it. On this day 85 years ago, the Indian-born mystic Baba went voluntarily silent at the age of 31. He would stay that way for 42 years, until he died in 1969. Funnily enough, no-one saw it coming. Born in the cosmopolitan Indian city of Pune to part-Zoroastrian-part-Sufi Persian parents, Baba seemed to have had it going on before his transformation to mysticism, according to Wiki:
His schoolmates nicknamed him “Electricity”. As a boy he formed The Cosmopolitan Club dedicated to remaining informed in world affairs and giving money to charity — money often raised by the boys betting at the horse races. He had an excellent singing voice and was a multi-instrumentalist and poet. Fluent in several languages, he was especially fond of Hafez’s Persian poetry, but also of Shakespeare and Shelley.
Baba’s persona, work and metaphysics enrapture lots of folks in the West, many of whom celebrities ranging from Gary Cooper to Pete Townshend. As you can see below, though a silent man for most of his life, Baba was a chatty bastard.