Saturday, May 12, 2007


In a departure from habit, I didn't turn on my radio for my morning shower.
As I let the water play on me, I thought to myself, "Silence is golden."

But is it?

Because I'm easily distracted at work, I sometimes create silence by wearing earplugs. All I can hear are my breaths and my heartbeat. This is as close to total silence as I can easily, artificially achieve.

Years ago, I took a canoe trip on the Conemaugh River near Indiana, Pa. It was the hottest, most oppressive part of summer. The stretch of river I was on was completely, almost disturbingly isolated.
It was beyond the middle of nowhere, because "middle" implies awareness of boundaries.
There wasn't even a hint of breeze.
The stifling heat and humidity rendered even Nature itself silent.
Dead silent.
All I could hear were my breaths and my heartbeat.

Silence -- true silence -- can be quite discomforting, at least to my ears.

Most times, when I think that silence is golden, what I'm really expressing is my love of unadorned sound -- the sound of sound itself without my willfully modifying it. Sound that isn't muted or enhanced. The chorus of the universe, intentionally lacking only my voice.
No radio.
No TV.
No conversation.
Just the sound of my wind chimes singing this afternoon in a delicate spring breeze.
The sound of my cats' heavy breathing as they sleep on the armchair in my living room.
The sound of a large fly buzzing outside my bathroom window.
The sound of plaintive birdsong just far enough away that I have to strain to hear it.

No, I don't think silence is golden.
Words can be so misleading.

1 comment:

east village idiot said...

I agree! Total silence can freak me out. Which is why I never saw the value in floating around in a sensory deprivation experience which probably dates me.