We like noise.
The stimulation of sound makes our brains light up with activity and drives us to respond. Noise can bring comfort (or discomfort), and it can bring reality crashing into our lives with vividness and excitement.
Have you ever watched fireworks from a great distance?
I got to watch fireworks from a mile above them, once. It was cool to see them from that vantage point, but it was also rather disappointing.
I couldn’t hear them.
By the time the soundwaves got to me (which would’ve taken ten minutes or so anyway), they were too faint and spread out for my ears to catch them.
Sure, the visual was pretty interesting, but the overall power of fireworks was lost.
There was no sound.
Yes, there are people (including, I imagine, several who will read this) who hate loud noises. Or noise at all. They just want everything to be silent. However, everyone needs sounds in their lives. It’s important to who we are and what we become. A deaf person will see the world differently because they haven’t experienced the sounds and noises of life. Of course, their experience is no less valid or important, simply different.
And that’s actually amazing.
It’s amazing that something as simple as noise can affect who we are and how we look at life.
Is it good to always be surrounded by sound?
Today, I’d like to take a step past my acknowledgement of the importance of sound and consider this: what good is silence?
Simplicity In Silence
Silence seems simply, on the surface. And while I’d contend that it is not, there is a sort of simplicity that dwells within silence. When we are silent, part of us is at rest. Our brains don’t have to be working non-stop to provide constant feedback and interpretation of sound. Even know, as I type, my room is relatively silent (especially since my roommate is currently working). There’s just me and the clicking of my keyboard, and occasionally loud thumps or shouted obscenities coming from the hall or distant rooms (a common occurrence because men’s college dorms are just that way in general).
Despite these random interruptions, I myself am silent. I haven’t spoken a word for about forty minutes, give or take. I’ve just been typing, typing, typing. Later, I’ll do chemistry homework (yay for electrochemistry) in silence as well.
I probably won’t speak for another hour.
And it’s simple. My mind can shut out all noise because I don’t have to interpret, understand, and respond.
I can simply think.
That’s a powerful tool. Being silent can give us a simple rest, and a time where we can choose to reflect on things of the past or current without having to give them immediate attention and action.
The Complexity of Silence
Silence, however, is not just simple. It’s not just rest or a time to think.
Because we try to fill it up.
Even in the silence of the air around us, we fill our brains with noise to keep us busy. I mean, look at me. I’m spending my “simple” silence by filling it up with blog posts, chemistry homework, and more writing.
Those things are simple.
Silence is complex. It’s full of other noisy things. That’s the paradox of silence. It’s nearly impossible to find true, empty silence.
So what does empty silence look like?
It can vary, actually. But in short, empty silence has nothing to fill it. No audible noises, and no internal noise either.
Empty silence has no stream-lined thought. There’s no plot, nor is there rambling, if there’s thought at all. Why does this matter? Empty silence is one of the best ways to “fill up”. It’s one of the best ways to stop and consider and then to not consider.
It’s hard to find silence of any kind. Even now, as I’m searching for silence in my room, there are those distractions and noises. It’s not bad, necessarily, but silence is important enough and powerful enough for me to want it.
So how do we find silence?
We have to be willing to say no.
We have to be willing to turn down a chance to participate in noise, to allow it to come into our silence. Yes, noise is good and powerful and influential. It is not absolute. There are other importance things out there.
So find silence.
Find a place or time where you can just be still. Even if it’s a loud sort of simple silence where you’re writing or doing homework or even just living life in a normal way. But in silence.
See what silence does.
See how it can affect you. And then use it. Use it to make the art of your life brighter. Vivid.