Silence doesn’t just mean not talking. Most of the noise we experience is the busy chatter inside our own head. We think and we rethink, around and around in circles
Thích Nhất Hạnh (2013)
Antarctica is the quietest place I have ever been. I walked alone to the South Pole, and in the whole vast monotone landscape there was no human noise apart from the sounds I made... ‘Down here I am learning to value miniscule joys...The wind abating. Formations of clouds. Silence’.
Erling Kagge (2016)
Silence fascinates and divides us. The fascination is shown by one bookseller currently offering over 30 books, by different authors, all with the single word ‘Silence’ as their title. Such fecundity spells diversity. For some silence is irksome, even threatening, while others seek it out. The English word is partly responsible, as a noun, indicating a complete lack of any sound - as in a soundproof room; but as a verb asking for a cessation of talk - the stern elder’s enjoinder to ‘hold your whisht’ (cease your chatter). In the quote Kagge’s silence is freedom from human noise, not from all sound: silence as peace. It parallels the way human lights render the night sky opaque; human noise robs us of the joy of nature’s sounds. But against the backdrop of Antarctica’s wastelands Considers wilderness as offering a link to our true homes. Kagge goes further and considers that most challenging noise Attending seems to reduce the noise in our heads. of all: Nhất Hạnh’s constant conversation On the problem of these conversations in our heads when we wish to meditate. within our heads - silent noise.
Hanh’s book Silence: the power of quiet in a world full of noise, was published by Penguin Random House, the quote is from page 59 of that edition. It seems to have been produced just before his stroke after which he did not regain his speech. Nhất Hạnh died on 22nd January this year at the age of 95 in Huế, Vietnam. Kagge’s book Silence: in the age of noise was translated into English in 2017. The quote is from pages 12/3 of the Penguin edition which was published 2018. Curiously although Kagge offers very similar thoughts on reflection, meditation and the noise in our heads, to those of Thích Nhất Hạnh, and refers to a great range of important authors, Kagge makes no mention of Nhất Hạnh’s work.
Hill tops are not usually free of sound, but they are often peaceful places, this photograph was taken from a hill in the Southern Uplands looking towards the Lake District hills in midwinter. No human noise, although some wind, making its waves in the snow’s surface, as well as the occasional call of a bird.
Above, hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.