The sound of silence

Am I alone in wishing there was less noise in the world? Even living in this remote rural area I’m aware of man made noise, but it is (generally) tied to the rhythm of the seasons and is, thus, an “essential” part of life. In the winter, everywhere around there is the sound of olive picking – generators, and the electrically powered “sticks” which knock the olives from the trees. Now it is chainsaws, as all the farmers are pruning their trees and burning what is removed; on a still day I can hear the crackle of fires, as well as see the smoke.

In the early mornings, and early evenings there are only birds – wild and domesticated – and the local dogs. Night time has started to echo to the sound of frogs. In the summer there are cicadas – incredibly loud at times – during the day, but they fall silent at night. Someone once described them to me as the sound of summer – which is about right, as they only appear once the temperature goes above 30 degrees (C).

When we first saw this patch of land it was early summer, and the only noise we heard was the gentle hum of the bees, and birdsong. Coming from suburbia, we found it hard to believe how quiet it was – this was one of the things that “sold” it to us. As time has gone on it seems less quiet, but I think a lot of that is us becoming habituated to it rather than noise actually increasing; I’m also less tolerant of noise in general than I used to be.

How do we differentiate between necessary and unnecessary sounds? To me, natural sounds are fine – apart from the occasions when dogs just won’t stop barking; it doesn’t matter whether it is our own dogs or someone else’s! What is objectionable is the fact that wherever you go you are bombarded by background “music” and shopping counts as a trip to one of the outer circles of hell. Even our favourite local café is at it now – supposedly to create atmosphere. I can just about understand the need for it in the early evening, but why at 9 in the morning, when most of the customers just come in for a chat or to sit and watch the world go by. It is a disease that has spread far beyond the dreams of the marketing experts, who see it as a means to make people spend more money – apparently. Even a previous oasis of quiet like Marks and Spencer is at it. I was in a large M&S store last autumn, and couldn’t wait to get out so pervasive was the “music”. As for Christmas time…….even here in Crete the supermarkets succumb to the tacky carols, but at least much later than their British counterparts. Usually only a couple of weeks of it.

Commercial considerations aside, does anyone know why this has happened? Are we all so afraid of silence – that we might have to actually talk to one another, or, if alone, confront our own thoughts? I can fully understand the growth of the attraction of mindfulness and meditation, as an antidote to the stress of the world; I feel very strongly that constant noise is part of that stress and that we would all benefit from an escape from it from time to time, before it sends us all crazy! It is up to the individual to realise what is happening and act upon it, though; we can only control the noise in our own environment, so start there – just switch off occasionally and see how good it feels.


  1. #1 by carolinehounsell on March 20, 2017 - 10:43 pm

    I am perfectly happy with silence, not that it is particularly quiet in our neck of the woods. I can do without the canned music everywhere. I dont know why it is so pervasive, but I do wonder how much of it is actually heard, or if it has just become white noise to many people

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