- March 8, 2010
- 12:48 pm
- Bren Ortega Murphy
Sounds of Silence
Bren Ortega Murphy
I am the kind of person who turns on some sort of sounds when I get home, when I get into my hotel room, when I go walking. Unless I’m writing something very difficult, I listen to music as I work on the computer. I have four Pandora stations and frequent various online radio streaming sites. I have one iPod and think I need at least two more.
And so I surprised myself one recent night when I decided to walk to a grocery store without any self-selected noise.
It was a very cold night and we had just had a sizable snowfall. The going was slow and street noise was muffled. But there was plenty of sound. For one thing, my boots made a delightful crunching sound on the deep and crusty snow. For another, I could hear my own breathing. Most important… it seemed that I could actually hear the silence.
Sometimes I wonder if filling my head with sound separates me too much from the natural world around me. Cultural historian and environmentalist Thomas Berry wrote that human beings increasingly avoid encounters with nature that they can’t control. As a result, he argues, we are losing our capacity to be in awe of the earth and that loss will have devastating effects on all life, including our own. He quotes Henry David Thoreau’s observation that “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
I use mediated sound and sight for many reasons…to learn, to amuse myself, to keep me company, to remind me of the seasons. I need to remember that silence or at least sound that I cannot control can do the same.