July 13, 2011

Make the rest...silence.


I am a lover of silence. It is this same love that is bound up with my passion for books. The writer Stefan Zweig once defined a book as a “handful of silence that assuages torment and unrest.”

While the world teems about me, drowning out the sounds of stillness with incessant noise, there is a notion of displacement, as though I wasn’t meant for these times of television sets, ipods, car alarms, cell phones, all day-every day music in stores, restaurants, office buildings, malls, and elevators. Why is it, I wondered, that silence is a diminishing natural resource, so alien to our way of life that its very existence seems to threaten the fabric of our culture? Why is it that we love noise, fear silence and evade a stillness that puts us in closer connection with things that give us happiness if we let them?

It is a strange and intoxicating premise: to investigate the obscure root causes of our inability to be quiet. Like a form of narcissism, are we becoming consumed with a self-saturation of our own largely uninteresting cacophony? I believe that we are, and as we become noisier, we also lose touch with the many dimensions of silence itself, a silence that research suggests is as therapeutic–as essential–to the human animal as antibiotics or uncontaminated food.

We suffer from noise pollution; insomnia, aggression, heart disease, even decreased longevity…the side-effects of enduring noise. It’s almost as if noise itself is a disease, a pathogen. And because of it, silence has become the most precious—and dwindling—commodity of our modern world, more than money, power, even happiness.

It doesn’t take a sage to understand that those who have grasped solitude are the special emissaries to the tranquility of silence.

Henry David Thoreau for one: “Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment.”

12 comments:

Charles said...

And mine ;-)

frenchtoast said...

Nice post. Your page is on the Fritz, again. The pleasures of posting!

Alistair said...

The older I grow the more I listen to people who don't talk much you included. Thanks.

Yes, your 'ratings' function is well de-funct!

SvO said...

Excellent post, but I’m afraid it will fall on deaf ears (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun). I have a theory that all the noise and commotion provides a convenient excuse for many people to not have to engage with other humans too much or to get too “deep”. It’s a shame, really. My fellow Americans are unfortunately some of the worst offenders. All of the distraction from noise prevents people from really “living”, and hence, prevents them from connecting to some of the most enjoyable moments of being human.

Gaggle of Fans said...

And we whispered hallelujah and amen.

Ms. Capshaw said...

I couldn’t agree more…

Anonymous said...

Solitude has become a luxury in our overly connected world. And to many, it’s hard to come by even if one is willing to unplug it all. Where can we go that one can be really alone? Like the picture on this post. It’s indeed a spiritual discipline to sit quietly and listen.

Ms. Edna (squared) said...

Anonymous,

thank you for your comment.

The picture? The Mojave desert at sunrise. But you can be alone anywhere. As you say, it is a discipline.

Bill (SM) said...

The last thing to say about silence and solitude is that it isn't very polite. The "doubleness" that silence cultivates, the ability to stand back and observe life dispassionately, is apt to make us a little unpleasant to our fellows, to say nothing of the offense implicit in rejecting their company. We, however, have made of geniality — the weak smile, the polite interest, the fake invitation — a cardinal virtue. True friendship may be slipping from our grasp, but our friendliness is universal. Not for nothing does "gregarious" mean "part of the herd." Securing one's self-possession is worth a few wounded feelings. You may have put your ‘friends’ off, but at least you are sure of yourself. Those who seek silence and solitude are not afraid to stand alone.

Gaggle of Fans said...

And we whispered hallelujah and amen.

A networked self said...

It’s ironic that ‘connecting with the world’ often comes at the high cost of disconnecting from ourselves.
The great contemporary terror is anonymity. We live exclusively in relation to others. Technology is taking away our privacy and our concentration, but it is also taking away our ability to be alone. I shouldn't say taking away. We are doing this to ourselves; we are discarding these riches as fast as we can. Not long ago, it was easy to feel lonely. Now, it is impossible to be alone.

a slow blogger said...

Recently, I’ve been mulling over the notion of slow blogging, a movement that is gradually gaining attention. It’s all about thinking through, reading and studying in depth, chewing and digesting, and finally putting something meaningful down in words. I don’t know who initiated the idea. It may have sprouted up from various bloggers, those who care about the quality of their writing, and the effects of their posts. This blog is a sterling example of what I am speaking off.