Silence !

Whenever I’ve evolved some truly insightful thoughts to share with my wife, and begin to (eloquently) share them, her first response is often: “Silence!”  Now, I know she really values my brilliance, so I thought I’d explore to see what else she might be implying.  And I found a rich and insightful book by that name.  So … here are some of the excerpts that jumped out to me.  I discovered that silence may be a valuable aspect for enhancing our quality of life experience, a key to sustainable living.  I’ll add comments afterwards.

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In the Age of Noise

                                                                                                 Erling Kagge


(P. 5)   “What is silence?  Where is it?  Why is it more important now than ever?”


(P. 9)   A lot of things in daily life boil down to wonder.  It is one of the purest forms of joy that I can imagine.

My sense f wonder is first and foremost something in and of itself, wonder for the sake of wonder.  A small voyage of discovery.  Though it can also be the seed that germinates, to bring forth new possibilities.


(P. 11) To speak is precisely what silence should do.  It should speak, and you should talk with it, in order to harness the potential that is present. “Perhaps it’s because silence goes together with wonder, but it also has a kind of majesty to it, yes, like an ocean, or like an endless snowy expanse,” he said.  “And whoever does not stand in wonder at this majesty fears it. And that is most likely why many are afraid of silence (and why there is music everywhere, everywhere).”


(P. 25) Silence is more of an idea.  A notion.  The silence around us may contain a lot, but the most interesting kind of silence is the one that lies within.  A silence which each of us must create.  I no longer try to create absolute silence around me.  The silence that I am after I the silence within.


(P. 33) Silence can be boring.  Everyone has experienced the ways in which silence can come across as exclusive, uncomfortable and at times even scary.  At other times it is a sign of loneliness.  Or sorrow.  The silence that follows is heavy.


(P. 35) Silence in itself is rich.  It is exclusive and luxurious.  A key to unlock new ways of thinking.  I don’t regard it as a renunciation or something spiritual, but rather as a practical resource for living a richer life.  Or, to put into more ordinary terms, as a deeper form of experiencing life than just turning on the TV to watch the news, again.


(P. 37) The constant impulse to turn to something else – TV series, gadgets, games – grows out of a need with which we are born, rather than being a cause.  This disquiet that we feel has been with us since the beginning;  it is our natural state.  The present hurts, wrote Pascal.  And a response is to look ceaselessly for fresh purposes that draw our attention outwards, away from ourselves.


(P. 39) I stopped at the word: unborable. Perhaps it should be the other way around – that it might be good for people to occasionally be a little bit bored?  To refrain from plugging themselves in.  To stop and wonder about what it is that we are actually doing.


(P. 47-48)      Biology has a natural explanation for my lack of common sense:  we are not born to be satisfied.  A different chemical in the brain, opioid, is supposed to create that feeling of happiness once you’ve achieved your goals.  Unfortunately, dopamine is stronger than opioid, so even if you’ve attained all you ever dreamed of you will continue to do the same thing.  Hence the dopamine loop.  It is more fulfilling to anticipate and seek, to wander in circles, than simply to value and appreciate the fact that you have fulfilled your desires.


(P. 50) When you’ve invested a lot of time in being accessible and keeping up with what’s happening, it’s easy to conclude that it all has a certain value, even if what you have done might not be important.  This is called rationalization. The New York Review of Books labeled the battle between producers of apps “the new opium wars,” and the paper claims that “marketers have adopted addiction as an explicit commercial strategy.”  The only difference is that the pushers aren’t peddling a product that can be smoked in a pipe, but rather is ingested via sugar-coated apps.

In a way, silence is the opposition to all of this. It’s about getting inside what you are doing.  Experiencing rather than overthinking.  Allowing each moment to be big enough.  Not living through other people and other things.  Shutting out the world and fashioning your own silence whenever you run, cook food, have sex, study, chat, work, think of a new idea, read or dance.


(P. 66) I believe silence is the new luxury.  Silence is more exclusive and long lasting than other luxuries.


(P. 75) It is easy to assume that the essence of technology is technology itself, but that is wrong.  The essence is you and me.  It’s about how we are altered by the technology we employ, what we hope to learn, our relationship with nature, those we love, the time we spend, the energy that is consumed and how much freedome we relinquish to technology.

We are going to give up our freedom in our eagerness to use new technology, Heidegger claimed. To shift from being free people to becoming resources.  The thought is ever more fitting now than when he first expressed it.  We will not become a resource for one another, unfortunately, but for something less appealing.  A resource for organizations such as Apple, Facebook, Instagram, Google, Snapchat and governments, who are trying to map us all out, with our voluntary assistance in order to use or sell the information.  It smacks of exploitation.


(P. 100)         What comes to you externally has already been told.  That which is vital, which is unique, is already within you.


(P. 114)         According to Abramovic, the opposite of silence is a brain at work.  Thinking.  If you wish to find peace, you must cease thinking.  Do nothing.  Silence is a tool helping us to escape the surrounding world.  If you manage it, it becomes like “a waterfall in your brain,” she says.  The electricity in the air changes when the world is shut out.  It may last for a long time, or only for a mere fraction of a second.


(P. 126)         Being on the journey is almost always more satisfying than reaching the goal.  We prefer the hunt for the rabbit over its capture.


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One of the questions I asked myself – especially about the technology comments – is: “Would I prefer to give up all the technology we have and return to the technology that was available before the industrial revolution?” I would not.  Today, we can readily travel to and experience more parts of our world than ever before.  And being able to phone or email or text people anywhere in the world enables more connecting.  But I also can’t dismiss the idea of silence and the “well” within.  For me, the question may be one of balance;  how do I enjoy the benefit of both domains … and avoid their downsides?

However, if we only look externally, we do miss the richness of a well of creativity, joy, and satisfaction that comes from the inner workings of our being. In silence – and maybe only in silence – we can each connect with that well … defining the “well” as our inner self, our higher self, our best self,

When we walk in nature, nature soothes and calms the nerve endings in our human system. And we don’t make wise decisions when we’re frazzled … or when we’re disconnected from ourselves.

When we’re calm, and connected to our own higher self, we don’t feel like starting a conflict with others – or, at a larger scale, a war. We feel more like connecting with others … like helping others.

Silence yields a higher quality of life experience for us … a key aspect of “sustainable living.” Adding silence to our normal external life styles, may give us the best of both.  Sustainable living essentially asks each of us to live the fullest, richest life we can… using every means we can.

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