I have for some years been saying that silence is the new luxury and that the time will come when we will pay for it.
Well that time is fast approaching…people are already taking silent retreats, there is a Quiet Mark accreditation scheme awarded to household appliances who have reduced their noise level, while last year Selfridges introduced a quiet area, where at last we could just about hear ourselves think. While many of us are turning off alert sounds on our phones as well as considering total digital detoxes for a couple of days. There is even a new movie, In Pursuit of Silence, which explores the impact of noise in our lives.
When you come to think of it, if you can find a quiet corner, we are drowning in noise – on the streets, on buses and trains (at least the latter now have quiet compartments), with people constantly talking, shouting or listening to very loud tinny music, which they are sharing with the rest of us through rather poor quality earphones.
In summer cars roar around with windows open blasting the driver’s favourite tracks for all of us to hear. Is there a lift in any shop, hotel or restaurant that is muzak free? Why oh why do restaurants and cafes feel it necessary to provide music when there is already sufficient sounds via conversations not to mention that emanating from cutlery and crockery…especially as one of the great design faults of most modern brasseries and bars is the lack of any acoustic awareness.
At last noise pollution – for that is what it is – is recognised for the damage it is doing to our minds and bodies. The World Health Organisation now cites it as one of the greatest threats to public health. Noise – constant and excessive – is contributing to a range of conditions from sleep problems to strokes. Loud noises, especially sudden ones, immediately puts our body onto alert mode arousing our stress hormones …and often we spend entire days in that state…little wonder we cannot sleep properly.
Perhaps it’s time to search out the quiet corners …even at home…and spend a few minutes in peace. Or is that called Mindfulness? Another reason probably for the growth and interest in both mindfulness and meditation…we need the quietude and stillness. After all we were taught as children that Silence is Golden.