Hello Darkness my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence…*
We don’t experience silence very often. It’s problematic. We are bombarded by noise of various types everywhere, almost all the time. We don’t really think about it anymore. It just is. And, unless you happen to be sitting on a deserted beach or in a distant forest meadow, much of it is unpleasant.
I find noise very jarring. I crave the quiet. I crave the absolute quiet. Total silence. Not even wind whispering through the trees. I need the space to think without the conflict of stimulus.
Some sounds are restful and not as problematic. Spa music through the speaker is soothing. The sounds of nature, of birds and streams gurgling can invigorate the soul. Ocean waves breaking on the shore relax and soothe. But I like it best when I have moments of hearing nothing at all.
No noise, no music, no calls from nature. Not even the wind, which sometimes I really enjoy: the rustling of leaves and smaller branches, the wind chimes, the whoosh of the air around the eaves.
Absolute quiet brings me peace and ease and joy. Think of the quiet you experience alone on a hill when the snow is falling. Even the silence is muffled. Lovely.
Unfortunately, absolute silence is very hard to get. We live very noisy lives in very noisy times. Articles on the consequences of noise pollution abound.
I live a relatively quiet life and even so, sounds are everywhere, drilling constantly into my perception. The computer hums. The overhead light in my office gives off a high-pitched metallic ring. The furnace fan blows and the television in the other room shares heartfelt conversations from How to Train Your Dragon. There are dogs barking on the street, planes passing by overhead, and a neighbour two houses down has his compressor running as he pointlessly power-washes his driveway. The highway down the hill is humming and every so often, a train whistle sounds. And I live in what is considered to be a quiet locale. I don’t live near a twenty-four-seven industrial area after all.
I find it draining. I rarely play music anymore. I no longer find it enjoyable; it’s just more input my overwhelmed auditory system doesn’t want to deal with it.
I love it when the power goes off. I like the absence of background noise. All the hums that fill the house cease. If you’re lucky, the outside noises cease as well. If you’re really lucky, you’re in the house alone. And then there’s nothing.
Nothing save for a soothing blanket of emptiness. No sounds to process, no noises to attend to. It is an enormous relief. I can feel the tension I’m mostly unaware of sink from my body. It’s even better than the relaxation that comes with camping.
With camping I’m outdoors in the fresh, and the noises are all nature-based, and I feel connected to the earth and grateful and rejuvenated but unless you hike deep into the woods on a still summer afternoon, it’s rarely silent.
The noises are of a better quality but at the end of the day, they’re still noise. Still sounds that need processing.
I think absolute silence for periods of time is a good thing. We give our other systems input breaks; what’s wrong with going on a noise fast? It helps me think. My thoughts slow down, they are no longer competing for attention. I can contemplate, follow ideas down rabbit holes, or simply drift.
My son recently introduced me to noise cancelling headphones. They do a good job of bringing silence. I was skeptical – I tend to have low expectations – but nothing much in the way of sound gets through. I know you’re supposed to listen to music with them but I went in a different direction. I pop them on unconnected. I let the quiet settle. I sit in silence and relish the moments of peace.
Do you like silence?
*Simon & Garfunkel