Thursday, June 03, 2021

The Collapse LXVI: Silence

 30 January 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

The silence is becoming increasingly noticeable.

It is odd, in retrospect, how many little sounds filled the day before The Collapse: The refrigerator cycling on and off. The sounds of cars driving by on the main road. The occasional sounds of living that floated in from town: dogs barking, children making noise, occasionally the local bar with its music filling the air when its purveyors (or whomever was managing the sound system anyway) were overtaken a bit by the moment. Even, I suppose, the music I would play in the house from time to time.

Now, there is almost no noise to speak of.

The fire pops from time to time. The rabbits, of course, munching away on their hay or getting a drink from their water bottle. The rain and wind when they are here, of course.

But that is it. Nothing else.

The lack of ambient noise almost encourages one to remain silent one’s self. It seems an intrusion, a break into what has become a sort of ongoing sacred space reminiscent of a Carthusian or Cistercian Monastery.

The realization happened almost in an instant recently, when I was sitting down to write to you. I suddenly became conscious of the fact that there was no sound as I prepared to write. Nothing, except the sound of my pen scratching across the paper. When such a faint sound like that is what you hear, you are indeed immerses in quiet.

What a change from two years ago or even a year ago, when life was full of noise – not just at home as mentioned above, but out in the world as well. Driving, one almost always had something playing in the car: a radio station, a CD, some program off the phone. Entering any sort of establishment – a store, a restaurant, even auto service shop – was the same: some sort background noise, be it television or music.

Why? To fill the awkward silence, perhaps – we were never a people that were good at simply “being”. You knew this as soon as you went somewhere where there was not noise: people would speak in low voices or even not at all. Noise had become our blanket, our disguise, to hide the awkwardness and shallowness of our relationships from ourselves.

It makes me wonder what the future of sound will be. If things do not return, we will of course not hear the sounds of the industrial world. But we will also lose so much of our audio heritage: music will be limited to what people can make themselves; things that were only ever audio or audio-visual presentations will become locked up electronically as the equipment to play them will not run without energy.

It will be replaced to some extent, I am sure: we will exchange the industrial world of noise for the world of natural noise – the small sounds of life that occur every day around us but heretofore were drowned out – or the world of hand made noise, as we hammer, plow, saw, and forge what we need to survive.

It hard to say, Lucilius, if we have truly lost or gained in this exchange.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca


  1. Anonymous2:54 AM

    When I visit the ranch, my Brother and I do not listen to the radio or play any music. The sounds are what we ignored before. My Wife much prefers headphones but for me, it distracts. "Nothing wrong with quiet."

    1. Same experience here. Being filled with silence is not a bad thing.

  2. I think I need more silence.

    1. I do as well sbrgirl. It is hard to incorporate into modern life.

  3. Hmmmmmpfpfpfpfffff. Interesting.

    I am an urban city dweller that often retreats to the rural areas to restore my sanity, and the noise level is pretty much constant. The birds call, the grouse are drumming for mates, the geese are honking, the frogs croak and ribbet in the marshes, the winds blow through the trees. About the only time I get any real silence is the dead of winter...

    1. Fair point Glen - but at least for me, there is something less artificial about those noises. They come and go. Modern noises are pretty much constant in the background.

  4. My wife and kids need a constant soundtrack. I'm just the opposite. I rarely even listen to the radio in the car. I'll have the ham radio on, but that's about it. I like to know what's going on around me.

    Yeah; when power goes down though, the silence is deafening. Also; when "governor" Newsom locked down California, traffic just DIED. The roan I live on is a semi-rural 2-lane, but is a rush hour autobahn when the helicopter parents shuttle their kids to school, shrugging off that 40MPH speed limit. During the lockdown I could have had a PICNIC in the middle of that road!

    1. Pete, I have moved to the same thing: I scarcely listen to anything when I am driving anymore, unless it is on very long distance drives. It does help me concentrate, and the silence is welcome.

      It is interesting: to some extent all my children have noise going on in their lives precisely as you say. I had not really thought of that before.

      We experience the same here when we have power outages for a period of time. The urban silence is disturbing.


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