Golden articulates the zietgeisty feeling that our world and our minds are too daggum noisy. We need less less less, and we need things to quiet down. In this book, authors Zorn and Marz diagnose the problem, look at the benefits of silence, and then provide examples of how to bring more silence into our environment. By environment, I mean internal, communal, and global.
First, what is silence? The authors make the point from the very beginning that silence isn’t the absence of noise so much a fullness of something else. (This is similar the related idea that peace isn’t the absence of violence or disagreement, but a kind of communal fullness or wholeness.)
What’s in the way of silence? Everything! All the usual culprits – social media, Big Business, the U.S.’ general insistence on extraversion and contribution and production as a means of proving value. Even the Reagan administration takes a few hits here. The book also spends time exploring the idea that silence can be scary. What happens when we’re truly quiet in our minds and see things more as they are? We might not like what we see!
The authors seek solutions from across the globe and across time. Many religious ideas and texts get some nods, including a falsely accused prisoner who turned to Buddhism to find silence in the noise, the iconic Christian mystic text The Cloud of Unknowing as a guide for finding peace in the unease of silence. If religion isn’t your thing, there’s also mention of silent dance retreats! And lots of nature.
I have a feeling that this book will mostly reinforce the convictions and practices of people already looking for silence, rather than converting others to it. However, I did find several of the little practices immediately helpful.
(Example: If a podcast stops streaming, just enjoy the silence instead of trying to fix it or launching a new one. The larger idea here is to observe silence in everyday instances rather than filling our aural spaces with unnecessary noise.)
(Example II: Bringing walking shoes to work so I can enjoy the sunshine on my lunch break. The idea here is even quick fixes of nature – trees and birds and wind and sun – are helpful for us.)
If you think this might be the book for you, it probably is. At least check it out from the library and jot down some of the “Thirty-Three Ways to Find Silence” at the end of the book. But, you know, don’t rush around to do it.
PS – I listened to the audiobook version. Narrator Prentice Onayemi understood the assignment, as they say. Talk about some dulcet, soothing tones!