But what is the point of silence? The point was, we learned, not mere silence, not silence to preserve some sort of order, but something much greater. In silence the idea was to recollect ourselves, to place ourselves more squarely in the presence of God than we would if people were talking to us all the time. We could pray, we could meditate, we could contemplate. . . . Silence was broken, of course, by people doing things they could not control -- coughing, sneezing, short periods of recreation, the sounds of work being done . . . But all of this merely emphasized the silence rather than disturbing it. Sounds could never absorb this silence; nothing could order it around. It concentrated itself, and from it all else flowed. Silence could never be silenced.