I don’t know if contemplation requires silence, but it seems clear that silence requires contemplative attention. And it seems natural for those inclined towards contemplation to seek out silence.
So I seek it out.
Annie Dillard, in an essay called, “A Field of Silence,” describes an experience of seeing silence. She tells of a day in a barnyard, after the rooster had crowed, when she looked away.
“When I was turned away in this manner, the silence gathered and struck me. It bashed me broadside from the heavens above me like yard goods; ten acres of fallen, invisible sky choked the fields. The pastures on either side of the road turned green in a surrealistic fashion, monstrous, impeccable, as if they were holding their breaths. The roosters stopped. All the things of the world -- the fields and the fencing, the road, a parked orange truck -- were stricken and self-conscious. A world pressed down on their surfaces, a world battered just within their surfaces, and that real world, so near to emerging, had got stuck.
“There was only silence. It was the silence of matter caught in the act and embarrassed. There were no cells moving, and yet there were cells. I could see the shape of the land, how it lay holding silence. Its poise and its stillness were unendurable, like the ring of the silence you hear in your skull when you’re little and notice you’re living, the ring which resumes later in life when you’re sick.
“There were flies buzzing over the dirt by the henhouse, moving in circles and buzzing, black dreams in chips off the one long dream, the dream of the regular world. But the silent fields were the real world, eternity’s outpost in time, whose look I remembered but never like this, this God-blasted, paralyzed day.” (From Teaching a Stone to Talk, pp. 135-136)
I recognize myself in her description of youthful awareness. And I recognize those fields.
I have also seen it in certain paintings.