The sound of silence

When was the last time you were quiet? I don’t mean not talking, I mean not making any sound of any kind? It’s more difficult than you think. Even if you sit (or lay) perfectly still, there’s still your breathing, your heartbeat, your digestive system. And if you try to move…This came home to me when the girls were young and I had to try and get one of them to sleep in their moses basket. Giulia is the lighter sleeper of the two, and the fact that she had appeared to have dropped off didn’t mean that she wouldn’t snap awake at the drop of a hat (I was very careful never to drop any hats around her, obviously). When the time came to stand up from the sofa, it always amazed me how much noise that simple movement made – the springs and wood (even the cushion fabric) in the furniture, and the various alarmingly creaky joints in my own body made what seemed at the time to be a veritable baby-wakening cacophony.

But when do we ever really hear nothing at all? We think we do, but only because we’ve learnt to tune out all the background noise. What can you hear right now? The whine/hum of your computer or its monitor, the muted roar of traffic through your window, maybe some birdsong, neighbours or co-workers above/below/around you…

I’m easily distracted by noise, and if I want to concentrate on something, like a book, I find it difficult if there’s a tv or radio on, or people nearby talking, or even a clock ticking.

Related: I remember a surreal joke from an otherwise risible 1980s comedy show.

Two nuns approach each other. One is listening to a Walkman. The other says “I thought you’d taken a vow of silence?”. The other, holding up the Walkman, replies “It’s alright, sister – it’s a blank tape”…UPDATE: Also of interest – this article about noise pollution.