One Square Inch of Silence

Perhaps you have never considered your aural environment – the sounds that surround you in every minute of your day. Just as we are immersed in air, we are bathed in sound, every second of our lives and even while we sleep. We attend to sound perhaps when we notice our child’s cry, or are listening to music, or engaged in conversation. We might hear the warning of a car horn or note the alarm on a piece of equipment at work. We hear the alarm clock, the pop of the toaster, the start of the car engine. However, we generally go about our days using vision as our primary cues. Our society is so overwhelmingly focused on visual stimuli, that auditory input takes a distance second to the senses that we attend to. Yet, when is the last time you sat very still and actually listened, deeply, to your surroundings? You might hear, as I am now, the sound of fingers tapping on computer keys, the sound of music playing (a nice Spanish guitar piece), the hum of the computer. As I listen more deeply, setting aside the obvious sounds and hearing deeper into the background, I can hear the sound of traffic on the street and the more distant rumble of a train. I can hear the hum of my house, the refrigerator, in particular. I can hear the tinnitus in my right ear and now I hear a small plane flying overhead. In the far distance, I can finally hear the eager sounds of a cardinal, trying to get an early start on spring, barely detectable. Try sitting, as I am, to hear every possible sound you can for a minute or so. What do you hear? It’s interesting and takes a bit of concentration, doesn’t it?

Now think about this: how many of the sounds that you heard were the sounds of nature, of the sounds of the earth? Not sounds that are man-made. I would bet that it was difficult to get to those natural sounds, wasn’t it? You may have even had to close your eyes and dig deep into the sonic soundscape to hear them. Or maybe, you didn’t hear any at all. And that is the point of the One Square Inch of Silence. Do you remember what it felt like the last time you were out in nature and the lack of noise, the lack of intrusion into your ears was like a great weight being lifted off your shoulders? Do you remember feeling so much closer to the earth, perhaps in amazement and awe, and perhaps feeling more aware of everything, including yourself? Do you remember hearing the silence between the gentle sounds, a silence that may have had a message or some meaning for you? Do you remember what a relief that was? Do you remember how important that was? We must not let these places of quiet become places that we remember. We must preserve these places so that they will always available, not be a memory, but a sanctuary of quiet for now in an increasingly noisy world. It is really important.

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