Anne's Diary

The Silence

One of my last diaries started with a song and this one does too. In this case, it's the lyrics to the Simon and Garfunkel song: "Sound of Silence," which go like this:
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
Still remains, Within the sound of silence

50 years ago, Swiss philosopher Max Picard said, "Nothing has changed the nature of man so much as the loss of silence." While he was writing during the noisy Industrial Revolution, with all the cell phone chatter that surrounds us today, we don't hear much silence anymore either. I was reminded of all this when I recently saw the modern French silent film "The Artist," because I saw a neighbor there who--due to a stroke--is unable to speak. However, while she's been silenced, she still hears the cacophony that's going on all around her. But without the ability to use words, she communicates the same way silent movie stars did: with gestures and facial expressions.

Silence can be soothing and I'm constantly surprised by the degree of noise present in public places. Restaurants, stores and doctors' offices all play muzak. I assume they've been told this either stimulates sales (in the case of stores and restaurants) or is soothing and distracting (in the case of doctor and dentist waiting rooms).

These people especially should REthink this. There isn't enough silence in the world anymore, and we need silence in order to wrap our minds around what we will shortly undergo, whether it's something as big as a serious diagnosis or as small as a filling.

I've begun to treasure silence so much that I get up early in order to read a book and have a cup of coffee or tea before the sounds of the day begin. As the time goes by, I begin to hear water running in nearby apartments and garbage trucks clanking by outside. I hear cars being "tooted" open as other residents leave for work, and I overhear conversation among those who meet in the public areas downstairs. I hear the whisk of a broom as leaves and debris are swept up from the walkway outside.

I've lived in quieter places, like the country, where a neighbor's rooster may wake you up. I've lived in truly noisy places, like New York City, where a roar of noise starts early in the day and continues through the evening, and sometimes deep into the night. When we lived in New York and had a country house, there were amusing stories going around about city people who couldn't get to sleep in their new country houses, because it was TOO quiet.

As I finish my tea, I no longer hear roosters, but I sometimes hear birds singing a morning song. Gradually, the world comes alive, and it's delightful to be a part of this. It's something I couldn't enjoy if I didn't first experience the sounds of silence.


I soooooo agree with you. Many times I've been in a store and wished they would turn the annoying music off as whatever the reason is for playing it, I'm sure they are achieving the antithesis of it. Nothing is worse than tinny pop music, because pop needs bass level to sound good. Classical music in the background would be the closest to being truly soothing. Somebody thinks perhaps we're too immature a society for classical music, or even jazz.
I think there is a concerted effort to keep people from thinking, and this bombardment of white noise everywhere is quite efficiently doing it. Noise and constant stimulation is de rigueur, and then we wonder why we are so stressed and disease prone. I've noticed that the word "noise" can be found in the word "depression" and wondered if there was a connection. However, the advent of still more technology would seem to insure that nothing changes at all soon.

Anne, I love what you have said in your Anne's Diary…..’The Silence’…..Silence is indeed missing from too many lives but the sad thing is I don’t think most people are aware of it. Below are three moving quotes, at least they were special for me. ALSO, just a little note, my hardcover book, “Solving the Communion Enigma: What Is To Come”….. should be mailed tomorrow, I am sooo looking forward to reading it.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

“Music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence, and silence is full of music.”
Marcel Marceau Quotes

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
Mother Teresa Quotes

“Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule.”
Thomas Carlyle Quotes
Source: Sartor Resartus (bk. III, ch. III)

There are things in the silence which "they" do not want us to hear. So the noise stays turned up. We each have to find our own way of resistance to the designs of these people. But it's also an oppression with which we are complicit. There are things in the silence that many of us don't want to hear either. So the noise stays turned up. We sleep on in the noise, cruising toward destructive things and waste, because it's easier than being awake. We each have to find our own way of resistance to those designs within.

one can find peaceful moments on Youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owRBZgoQnGM
if there is no time to get away from this awful civilization.

Amen, Ann.
I live in a magical place, a valley that opens to the South Atlantic and is surrounded on three sides by mountains. When the sea is restless I can hear its deep roaring which can be a bit scary at times but most often it is reassuring. Dolphins and whales frequent the area and people eagerly await 'whale season' (July through November) in hopes of seeing the births of new calves. Baboons roam the rocky outcrops and there are about 5000 jackass penguins who greet the sunset with their imitations of their four legged counterparts.
A flock of about 30 Peacocks and another flock of about 50 Guinea Fowl live amongst us and make a daily round of the neighbourhood demanding food - in exchange for quiet! One male Guinea Fowl can make a fuss you wouldn't believe and he has an echo in a French rooster (nicknamed Chevalier) who also seems to be dyslexic since he crows at all hours except sunrise. I forgot to mention the horses and camels - the latter being specially bred beautiful golden creatures one can ride for a half hour or so. If one can manage to ignore the sounds of cars and lorries, barking dogs and buses, one can work in something approximating 'silence'. I work from home so silence is important to me and although I love classical music I often forego it in favour of just listening to the sound of waves. There is a lot of ambient sound here but much of it is natural so it's not disturbing in the way that machine-made noise is. As we lose touch with the pockets of silence still to be had in the world, we may also lose our capacity to think deeply about anything. I believe the greatest threat we face is mass distraction most of it coming from our own creations - industry and 'entertainment'. When the capacity for concentration is lost, we are vulnerable to that which makes the loudest din and it isn't the Guinea Fowl.

The late avant-garde composer John Cage had some interesting ideas about silence. He is probably best known for his composition 4'33" (often nicknamed "Silence") where the performer sits at the piano for exactly 4 minutes and 33 seconds, while turning the blank pages and playing nothing. I once heard him say in an interview that the idea for this came while on a road trip, hearing music from the juke box at every truck stop. It struck him that it would be good to have a choice to play "silence." But another view of silence was his agreement with Thoreau that all sound could be potentially regarded as a type of music. Thoreau wrote of the sounds of the honking geese or his hoe hitting the rocks in the earth as he gardened pleasant sounds that could be considered "music."
Cage explains his exploration of silence early in his career with this quote: "It was at Harvard ... that I went into an anechoic [totally silent] chamber not expecting in that silent room to hear two sounds: one high, my nervous system in operation, one low, my blood in circulation. The reason I did not expect to hear those two sounds was that they were set into vibration without any intention on my part. That experience gave my life direction."

I love this piece, Anne. It rings so true and lulls me to peaceful contemplation. Thanks for posting it.

Anne,
I really enjoy my subscription to your website. I have a suggestion that may not be original -but - Maybe audio books would be an alternative source of income. Whitley has a pleasing voice for listeners. I would purchase your audio books as I am not a good reader.

Thank you for this diary entry Anne!

That song has been on my mind a lot lately, since the Ann Arbor choir I'm in is performing it, at our show, this coming weekend. This is second time we've had it in our show, and I've only been in the choir 4 years.

I like what you said about silence, and I try to get a certain amount of silence each week, as it seems to keep me happier.

I'm a brand-new UC subscriber, and I'm looking forward to your diary...thank you again!

I think the best time of my life was living for an entire summer in a tent in the high desert of Oregon, waking to the sounds of a running river, going to sleep with the sound of a crackling fire, lying awake at night listening to the yips of coyotes and in the midday hearing the soft whistle of a diving hawk or the swoosh of an eagle. The silence allowed me to appreciate the magnificant landscape surrounding me and the creatures that inhabited it. I wasn't "camping" on a vacation. I was unemployed and homeless, but the sense of something more magnificant and greater than my problems helped me through that time. I had to be quiet long enough to hear myself think. Silence is often the best (or only) way to hear what we need to learn.

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