Walking in the dark and drizzle to the mailbox tonight, I had a few minutes to reflect on the relative silence of where we live (just passing 2-months).
I say “relative silence” because I realize it is all relative.
The level of noise at our new home is silence relative to that of where we used to live. The din at that apartment – with the freeway was audible even inside with the doors and windows closed – was still like the dead of night compared to the corner of 3rd and Mission in San Francisco.
And none of them compare to the pure silence of being in the middle of nowhere. Or high up in a mountain forest. Or in a dry river valley.
Nature has levels to silence that we can only dream of. They’ve become frightening and alien to us. We have so much noise in our lives that we have to use noise to cancel noise with things like iPods while riding a busy BART train or simply talking in a quiet room. Do you know how active noise canceling headphones work?
And each of us have our own levels of silence or noise we can withstand.
I find myself more and more craving silence. Deeper and deeper silence. I had originally thought of our new home as being very quiet, but within days of moving in, I caught every sound – every creak of the building, every noise of our neighbors, the rain on the roof – to the point that I have to sometimes remind myself of how much more silence (more nothing?) I have now from where we were just a few months ago.
And then I had to wonder how it is that I can spend most of my Saturdays in San Francisco – on the busy streets, in the museums, in the stores and public parks – without going crazy?
I don’t know the fine point where I tip from being able to bear a noise to it being too much. I’ve reached my limits, but it happens quickly and it’s from things like airplane engines and stadium crowds. Where do I tip? And is it a function of pure volume or does it include other factors such as length of time I’m exposed to the sounds?
Or is it not really the sounds but some kind of bank of silence I draw upon?
They just don’t have enough of the nothing. They have too much sound in their silence.
(Want something else to muse on? Think about what silence looks like to you. Get specific. I’ll be my silence looks different than yours.)