I believe in the power of quiet.
Quiet has become a rare commodity. Inside or outside, we have very few refuges from noise. Streets are filled with the sounds of cars, planes, and industry. Restaurants, lobbies, and elevators all have TVs and piped in Musak. If we do happen upon quiet, we feel startled and uncomfortable. By the time our brains have awoken from their stupors to question this stillness, we are again barraged by the next wave of cars, phones, commercials, sirens and airplanes. Lulled again into inactivity our brains settle back down into their passive states.
But what of that moment of quiet? Are we afraid that our brains might wake up, prowl around the perimeter and notice that the gate has been left open? Would it be like an old dog and just curl up on the porch in the sun? Or, would it go on an adventure and explore?
I spent several summers working in a national park in Alaska. With no TV or radio, the resounding quiet left me feeling disassociated and panicky. My hearing stretched out to gather news. To fill the void, I sang, wrote, drew pictures, and slept. When I became used to the quiet it was almost like weightlessness. I was free to experience the world around me in a way that I can only describe as being in the company of close friend.
Back home in the lower 48, I was astonished at how loud and distracting life was. This cacophony of cars, people, music, phones, TVs, radios that I hadn’t noticed before, now confused me.
The brain scientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, experienced a stroke which disassociated her from her mental chatter and all external input. This life threatening experience provided her with a euphoria that she compared to Nirvana. Although I have no desire to experience a stroke, I do crave that silence and peace. It still exists, although it is increasingly difficult to find. I steal what I can in driveway moments; sitting in my car in the driveway…radio off…and enjoy the quiet and the detachment of being neither here or there. No one needs my attention. I am suspended from my daily responsibilities. It is just this silence that reminds me that I am not made up of the expectations of others. I am not confined to the space allotted to me by my noisy environment.
My brain, that dog on the porch, stretches.