Seeking Silence

Photo by Artur Nasyrov on Unsplash

A friend of mine sent along a newsletter written by Tish Harrison Warren, published in The New York Times. The article is titled “How Silence Became a Luxury Product.” The article is behind a paywall. If you subscribe to paper, you can read it in full. Here’s a section that caught my eye:

In his book “The World Outside Your Head,” Matthew Crawford advocates for what he calls an “attentional commons.” We as a society hold certain resources in common, like air and water. These vital resources are available to everyone as part of the common good. Crawford says that the “absence of noise” — auditory silence but also freedom from things like advertisements that intrude on our attention — should be seen as just such a resource. He writes, “As clean air makes respiration possible, silence, in this broader sense, is what makes it possible to think.” He argues that we all need access to quiet, undistracting spaces.

Crawford brings up the pricey quietude of the business class lounge at Charles De Gaulle Airport. I have only been in an exclusive airport lounge once (a friend got me in), but the sheer decadence of silence there — with its soundproof doors and walls — compared to the beeping, dinging, blaring in the rest of the airport was both delicious and disturbing. The silence was worth every penny, but why did only those who could pay those many pennies (or have friends who could) deserve it?

On weekdays in cities, churches sometimes keep their doors unlocked to provide a literal sanctuary from noise. This is an unsung kindness to the public, and every church who can do this, should. Still, not many can and this practice is more difficult now due to Covid precautions. As churches in urban areas close and are remade into trendy condos or restaurant space, we don’t just lose a worshiping congregation. We lose one more silent space.

It all leaves us asking, where can we go to find silence? There is an increasing need to preserve and protect publicly accessible silent spaces.

Where do you go to find silence?

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