Man goes 17 years without speaking because he thought he had nothing to say

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the american environmentalist John Francis decided to spend 17 years of his life not speaking until he had something relevant to share.

This curious fact began after an environmental disaster caused by a collision between two oil tankers in 1971 that contaminated the San Francisco Bay, California, with more than half a million gallons of oil (via Uol).

Francis, who considered himself a hippie at the time, was so impacted by what happened that he felt he needed to do something as a form of protest.

That’s how he decided that he would no longer drive cars, which at the time was quite a bold decision since everyone drove everywhere.

Imagining that other people would adopt his stance, due to the impact of the oil spill, John found himself walking alone and began to hear that what he was doing “was crazy” and “wasn’t going to change a thing”.

Francis stood by his decision and tried to defend himself against drivers who criticized him for making him feel bad or who accused the boy of wanting them to feel bad. From trying so hard to argue, one day John got tired of the sound of his own voice.

Environmentalist goes almost 20 years without speaking

About to turn 27, John was reading The Hobbitin JRR Tolkienand recalled that “when hobbits have a birthday they don’t expect to receive gifts, they give them”.

Using this motto as a reference, Francis, who has always talked a lot, decided that his gift to other people would be to stop talking.

The American says that on his birthday he woke up, got up and was silent. Of his first day’s experience, he said:

It was very interesting, because people had a lot to say, and to their surprise and delight, I just listened. For me, it was revealing because I heard what people had to say, perhaps for the first time.

Until this day, what I used to do when they started talking to me was think about what I was going to answer, how I was going to say they were wrong and I was right. During this 24-hour vow of silence, I realized that I wasn’t listening to anyone and that now that I was listening, I might learn something. I thought, ‘I’ll shut up another day,’ which turned into another day and then a week.

Asked about not talking again even though he was called crazy by some acquaintances, Francis explained why he kept doing it:

Because I felt good, because I realized that I was learning. And when I was walking in nature, I felt like it was really a place I needed to explore. It was something I needed to do.

For the first few weeks, there were a lot of conversations in my mind about what I should say and when I would start talking, until I finally came to the conclusion that it would stay that way for a year. And once I made the decision, everything calmed down, and I settled into the silence, and the silence settled over me.

Deciding not to speak for a year, John began to walk around the United States and improvised sign language and used a lot of mime to be able to communicate over time.

When his next birthday arrived, the American reevaluated his decision and established that he would be silent for another year, and with that the years were piling up.

In the 17 years that he did not speak, Francis managed to graduate from the University of Southern Oregon in Ashland, earn a master’s degree from the University of Montana and a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

After this period, and after being asked to advise the US government on oil spills and write regulations for them, John felt he had something to say and wrote in his diary that he would speak again on January 2, 1990. He explained:

I chose Earth Day because I wanted to talk about the environment, something that for me had gone from what we traditionally think about — climate change, oil spills, pollution and the like — to include how we treat each other.

This is something I didn’t hear in my studies, but that’s what I learned walking and living with people from all over the country.

Speaking about the connection between caring for the environment and caring for one another, John explained that it “is our first opportunity to treat the environment sustainably or even discover or understand what we mean by sustainability.”


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