Perspective: Turn Off The Noise

Apr 16, 2019

During chores, I turn the radio to NPR, because I’m fascinated with current events. My attention is so fixed I almost worship the whole drama. But what good does that do? I’m aggravated or saddened by events I can’t change.

Years ago, Krista Tippett introduced Gordon Hempton, one of the first acoustical ecologists. I stopped picking my stall, and listened. “Silence, as Gordon Hempton experiences and seeks to preserve it, is not a vacuum defined by emptiness. It’s not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. True quiet has presence, he says, and is a ‘think tank of the soul.’ It is quiet that is quieting.

“Gordon Hempton also shares a fascinating piece of truth that human ears are most attuned at their peak sensitivity not to other human sounds — but to birdsong. In our not-so-distant past, the sound of birds signaled a habitat that would be compatible for human flourishing.”

It’s true if I listen for the small sounds, my thoughts begin arriving. I can be thankful for breathing, for the sparrows, the wind playing the barn roof like a cello, and when snow falls, its brushing against the barn. I listen to my footsteps, the miracle of my feet tapping the ground.

So next time your radio or podcast or TV is playing as background noise, shut them off and listen to the silence, listen for the sounds that emerge.

I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.