After wandering for what certainly felt like an hour inside one of the most beautifully curated bookstores I’ve visited, my eyes landed on a small book titled “Silence: In the Age of Noise”. Its beautiful and simple cover instantly hooked me. The book’s premise was intriguing: a man embarks on a 50-day lone expedition to Antarctica in pursuit of, wait for it… silence. ‘Wow, this guy’s hardcore,’ I thought. ‘I need to read this.’
In his opening chapter, the author shares his experiences during the trip, revealing:
‘I’d become an extension of my surroundings. With no one to talk to, I began a conversation with nature. My thoughts were broadcast across the plains towards the mountains, with other ideas echoing back.’
A few chapters in, the message was clear: silence is cool, noise and stimuli are not.
Upon finishing the book, I felt unsettled. Is silence truly the answer to life’s mysteries and the antidote to our ‘Age of Noise’? I had my doubts. Certainly, noise and stimuli can be distractions, but are they the antagonists of our modern existence? I started thinking on ways in which noise could actually aid in clarifying our thoughts and enhancing our life experience.
While discussing this topic about noise and silence with a friend (who, by the way, convinced me that guilty pleasures should simply be called pleasures), she brought up an analogy with light and darkness. They’re not just complementary; they’re essential to each other.
That’s when it clicked: it’s not about choosing one over the other; it’s about embracing both. Now more than ever, I’m now convinced that:
- We need to listen to music loudly and constantly (ideally techno or metal but who am I to judge musical tastes in the middle of a philosophical writing) so that we can fully appreciate a peaceful walk in the park.
- We need engaging and challenging discussions to reflect and improve our ideas and conceptions of life.
- We need to stack our bookshelves with works that stretch our understanding so that we can expand our reasoning.
- We need to encounter people who stand out, whose voices resonate louder than the rest, so that we can challenge our deepest common-grounded beliefs.
What value is there in contemplation if our mind is void to begin with?
I’m more convinced now than ever: a life with minimal noise would not only be tedious but also boring and uninspiring. In the end, it’s the noise that makes the silence worth hearing.