The (Dis)comfort of Silence

I have to give props to The Catalyst on this bit of food for thought …

Blog-hopping, as I tend to do fairly frequently, I was reading the latest entry, in which my fellow blogger was writing about the effect our techno-gadget-crazy society is having on us, the way we communicate …

And then she wrote:

The other downside of this whole technology blackberry, instant messaging, text messaging, cell phone phenomena is, I miss the silence.

It sent my mind reeling backwards to Friday night. There I was, just finished my shift, hanging out with a couple of work friends (albeit at work), eating and talking.

And I just remember at one point just not talking. Which is when I heard it. No one audibly talking within earshot. No TVs blaring. Maybe just the big whirring sound of the central air system, plus whatever computers were on and buzzing. It was like this pocket of soundlessness.

And I just turned to my friend and said, “It is ridiculously quiet right now.”

That statement now makes me ask the question: since when did silence become ridiculous? Unnerving? Unnatural?

It’s not weird to have silence in the dead of night, or while I’m asleep. Why is it so, during the day?

I do remember the days before technology took hold. And the scary part is, it wasn’t that long ago.

I remember when people didn’t have cellphones. Hell, there weren’t touch-tone phones – they were rotary! When you wanted to talk to someone, there was no texting, no instant-anything. You called them. If they were farther away, you wrote them a letter.

When I was a bit older, if I was going out to meet friends and had to call someone, I used a quarter for the payphone (which I sometimes didn’t have, despite the “always have a quarter!” mini-lecture I’d get from my mom). Otherwise, you were late, and figured things out when you got to where you were going to.

I don’t remember being in front of a computer for anything other than video games (ah, the Commodore 64 and Atari days!) until sixth or seventh grade.

And at nights when I was trying to sleep, the thing that would probably be most annoying would be a dog barking somewhere in my neighbourhood or the noise of a car or motorcycle as it drove past my street.

But there was more silence back then.

And it makes me realize how much noise there is now, whether by way of my environment, or because I put it there. I always make sure my cellphone has different ringtones for different friends. On public transit, I fill my ears with music from my MP3 player to drown out whatever sounds are around me – like a sonic self-medication. Work is constantly noisy. Even at home, I notice that I always have the TV or my radio on in the background.

And when I’m at home alone on a weekend morning, and it just happens that there’s no one home, the silence – the few moments before I fill it with noise from the radio – are almost eerie.

Am I afraid of silence? And if so, why? What do I think will happen if I shut everything off and down?

How much silence do you get in your week? Do you take it as it comes? Do you take the time to make sure you incorporate it into your daily life? Or can you just not stand it whatsoever?

2 thoughts on “The (Dis)comfort of Silence

  1. Karmic-Angel says:

    It’s funny, but since I had Connor (and he started talking) I have really valued my silence. And you know I love him to death, but when I get a half hour to myself… I turn everything off, cell phone, computers, stereos, everything and open up some comic books and enjoy the perfect quiet time I have earned.. it is interesting though…

  2. Anonymous says:

    When I had 12 hours without power last week, the same sort of thoughts struck me. Once it was evening and everyone had retired to their house to do whatever it is they like to do with no lights or phones, I was struck by how strange it was to not hear a single sound. No whirring of the refrigerator. No blowing air sounds from the heater. No hum of the computer. Nothing. I had to get past the unsettling part of the silence before I could really appreciate it.


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