peace and quiet

luna lake

We have got used to a constant soundtrack in our lives. Until recently, while working my way through the daily list of tasks, I have either had the radio on,  tuned to Radio 4 and its endless chatter, Radio 2 and its saccharine music and talk, or occasionally Radio 3 for a little classical respite; or I have had music from my collection on the turntable. My attention would drift in and out of whatever noise was being delivered, but this didnt seem to matter. I blithely imagined I derived some comfort , or even company, from the sound.

I have now taken to giving silence a try.

At first I felt deprived, as I fidgeted my way through the endless quiet moments. Surely this will end soon, I reasoned. I was uncomfortable, and less able to concentrate. Eventually I would give in and turn on one or other sound delivery system. A sense of relief would wash over me, as my familiar behaviour patterns resurfaced.

However, I continued with my experiments in quiet, and I found myself slowly changing. The periods of self imposed silence grew longer, as I got more used to it. I discovered that in fact my concentration was much improved, and the activity of my fevered brain became less fevered, as its need to fight for attention diminished. Thoughts entered my mind more clearly, one at a time, rather than tripping over each other in a rush to be included.

This revelation is quietly(!), but radically changing me. I am not advocating the life of a Trappist monk, though I begin to understand more the appeal of such a commitment. But in our modern world, there is so much noise everywhere, we forget what silence is like, and how valuable it is.

Apart from bludgeoning our brains, all this noise is destroying the art of conversation. When I complained to a bar-owner friend of mine about the current vogue for deafeningly loud music in premises, he explained that young people, the bulk of his clientele, felt more comfortable with the noise, as it did away with the need to make conversation, something they are not very good at.

While I work I may still listen to music, even the radio from time to time. But more and more I enjoy the quiet background, and the chance to let my own thoughts surface.

As I write this, 3 children and the dog are still fast asleep, and the loudest sound is the old freezer humming and grinding its teeth. I’ll savour it while it lasts.

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