“Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation…” -Jean Arp
Our world is noisy!
The radio’s playing, the drier’s running, the dog’s barking, the television’s talking, the phone’s ringing, the door’s squeaking, the gravel’s crunching beneath footsteps…I could go on, and on, and on. I see people who, finding themselves in silence, can’t handle it. They have to whistle, talk, or chew more loudly just to fill the taboo silence.
It’s so noisy that we fail to listen because we tune it out. It’s just noise.
This last year I agreed to go hunting with my sister. So the week of the hunt we got up well before the sun, maneuvered our way into the woods to a pre-designated spot and sat for sunrise. I would say we sat completely still but, to be honest, I can’t manage completely still for more than maybe ten minutes.
At first the silence rang in my ears, creating a high-pitched singing that plagues me sometimes. But then I started to notice other sounds.
The jumping of squirrels in the foliage. (They are very loud creatures for their size.)
The singing of birds and the whoop of their wings.
Even, as the morning warmed, the buzz of bugs.
And, in the very exciting moments, I could make out the soft step of hooves in the underbrush or the scrape of horns on branches.
I’ve never heard that before. I’ve never stopped, breath caught, because I heard the step of a hoofed animal. It doesn’t work that way. Our human world is simply too loud unless we stop to observe.
And how rarely this happens. We get caught up in the rush of things so much that, when we look back, all we remember is the push of having to go all the time.
If we stop for a moment, still our constant forward momentum, and see the world around us as it lives and breathes then maybe we’ll understand better the flow of everything.
Personally, it’s when I stop to watch and listen that I grasp how to fully describe the world. Otherwise, I end up glossing over details because I haven’t taken the time to personally know those details.
In those moments of stillness I discover a richer world.
As Lord Byron once wrote:
“When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;
When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it.”
Do we know the sound of laughter in the woods? It’s different. It doesn’t echo like a building but instead absorbs the sound like it enjoys it.
Or the chatter of a stream? Or the laughter of our friends or children? Do we know these things?
When was the last time you were still and listened? Do you remember?