MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

QUIET PLEASE: Why the Sounds of Silence Nourish our Mind and Body

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Photo : Jeff Turner / Flickr

George Prochnik would like the world to put a sock in it. He makes his case in a new book, In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise (Doubleday, $26). Here he explains himself (using his indoor voice):

Jackhammers. Leaf blowers. Car alarms. The aggravating, tinny sound coming out of iPod earphones. We’ve become so accustomed to noise, there’s almost an ingrained prejudice against the idea that silence might be beneficial. If you tell someone to be quiet, you sound like an old man. But it’s never been more essential to find sustainable quiet. Silence focuses us, brings us closer to the people around us, improves our health, and is a key to lasting peace and contentment.

We need to excite people about the sounds you start to hear if you merely quiet things down a little. During a Japanese tea ceremony, the smallest sounds become a kind of artistry — the clacking spoons on a bowl, the edges of a kimono brushing against the floor. In ancient times, even those who entered a Zen garden without being in a silent frame of mind — samurai warriors, even — were seduced into silence.

We have different samurai today: televisions blaring at high volume, restaurants assaulting our ears with deafening music. It’s okay to socialize with friends in a way that doesn’t revolve around noise. At work and at home, we need to find places that are escapes from the world of sound. That’s not as difficult as you might think. It may involve good earplugs (I favor blue Hearos from the Xtreme Protection Series), though you want it to be more encompassing. Find a fountain or a place where water flows. Falling water not only masks noise; it has acoustic properties that are psychologically beneficial.

In deaf communities, attentiveness is heightened in almost every aspect of life. If two deaf people are walking together, using sign language, they constantly watch out for each other and protect each other by holding the other in their gaze. They are connected yet also keenly aware of their surroundings. Even deaf teenagers! We in the hearing world can learn from them. If we remove the overwhelming blasts of noise, we become aware of an extraordinarily rich world around us — of little rustling sounds and the patter of footsteps, of bird songs and ice cracking. It’s astonishing how beautiful things sound when you can really listen.

~ Interview by David Hochman, Reader’s Digest May 2010 edition

Written by MattAndJojang

April 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I’m so blessed – I can have all the silence I want. I work on the docks, by myself. I have no television. I live alone. I never use an ipod or other gadgety thing. Sometimes, I need to find a little noise!

    But there’s no question that silence allows stress to flow away and thought to flow. Not only that, on a quiet evening with the windows open, I can hear the nightbirds and the rippling of minnows across the water. There’s very little better than that!


    April 28, 2012 at 10:50 pm

  2. How fortunate and blessed you are indeed! In contrast we live in a noisy neighborhood at the heart of the city, which is fast becoming a commercial area. For instance, during the day we hear the constant whirring of machines because one of our neighbors has converted his garage into a furniture shop. During the night, the son of one of our neighbors, together with his friends, plays loud rock music! How I wish I could live in a place as quiet as yours…

    ~ Matt


    April 29, 2012 at 8:09 am

  3. I moved out into the middle of nowhere for this reason. At night, I hear crickets and the occasional bark of a dog when other animals come into its territory. I love the quiet. The wind has a particularly sweet song as it comes up the mountain. I would not trade that with my morning coffee for anything!


    April 30, 2012 at 10:53 am

  4. You are very fortunate, Red. Most of us have to bear with the noise pollution that comes with living in the city. It’s so sad that a lot of people are so restless that they can’t live without noise. This only shows that we are living in a society that is not at peace with itself…

    ~ Matt


    April 30, 2012 at 11:05 am

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