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.