The Plagued Parent

posts about surviving our children, the Baby Boomers who raised us, and everyone else with an opinion...

A Sound Rarely Made

I talk too much.

I claim this fact as an occupational hazard but more likely it’s a personality defect as well. Listening is hard sometimes.

It’s not that I have an egotistical love of my own voice (at least that’s what I tell myself), rather I want two things: to understand and demonstrate that I understand.

This certainly causes problems because I’ll sometimes interrupt and interject exhibiting the exact opposite of displaying any understanding. Instead, this practice demonstrates that I really don’t hear what’s being shared with me.

I struggle with stillness in those moments.

In other words, I struggle to be still. I struggle with silence. When I am attentive to this and can keep my damn mouth shut,  that’s when actual understanding happens.

Norwegian explorer and writer Erling Kagge believes in silence. It’s not just that he believes in it — saying you believe in something such as silence is a lot like saying that you believe in air — no, for him silence is a primal need, a pathway to living fully in the world.

Silence is not today’s norm.

Noise surrounds us in its various forms. Sadly, it has become increasingly hard to find two things in this world today: a less populated place that has yet to be mapped, or a place of quietude.

Smartphones, computers, traffic, people, television; the list seems endless.

The noise of civilization seems ever-present and inescapable, so much so that even our attempts to recede from such audiological trauma feel futile. The iPhone still buzzes on silent, someone hollers from a distant room, or beyond the woods the hum of the highway persists.

Yesterday, I was reading student essays in class when I overheard a student complaining about his phone’s insistence that he acknowledge his incoming texts. He asked, exasperatedly, “Does anyone know why ‘do not disturb’ mode is still disturbing me?”

No one had an answer for him. He remained “disturbed” — as did we all — for the rest of the class.

The world provides as much disturbance as it provides entertainment. Some might argue there’s little difference between the two.

Can we ever escape the noisy gravity of the world around us?

We know that we can, but doing so is not always a possibility. Generally, interacting with the world on daily basis is non-negotiable for most of us. Even when we take vacations, we’re never really ‘vacating’ and rarely are we seeking out silence. At these times we’re simply relocating our anxieties to a different GPS coordinate and delaying them thanks to alcohol, food, sex and other distractions until our eventual return pushes the typical noisy crap back on our plates.

Some days I’d love to hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign around my neck. You know the ones that hang off hotel room doors? Some even have pithy sayings on them. That would be helpful having a repertoire of small plastic placards that you could suspend from your neck reflection the day’s dominant mood.

Kagge writes, “Whenever I am unable to walk, climb or sail away from the world, I have learned to shut it out.” He asks three simple questions: What is silence? Where is it? Why is it more important now than ever? To answer such questions, Kagge suggests tapping into the silence around us as well as the silence within us.

For my part, I plan to follow Kagge’s lead to the extent that I can. I will grab the subtle silence in the business of the daily world. And I will find smaller spaces, inside and out, where I might cradle a deeper more meditative quiet.

Hopefully this will give my oft-opened mouth ample opportunity to shut itself before somebody else decides to do it for me. And maybe then silence can become more than an absent sound rarely made.





Updated: December 14, 2017 — 6:59 am


  1. There are some people who cannot live in their own silence. I feel sorry for them. It’s why I love taking my walks or reading before bed. Nice post.

    1. I guess it’s all a balancing act — for those of us who can live in our own silence the trick to not to retreat too deeply into in and sacrifice time in the world. It seems a though reading and walking server that function for many, many people. I find it interesting how many of us gravitate towards similar activities. Thanks for reading and sharing with us.

  2. I wish you luck in your quest for silence, it’s a rare commodity these days it seems! This post is really deep and meaningful and I appreciate your honesty with sharing these thoughts. Really needed to read this!

    1. I am glad and thank you for saying so.

  3. I find that solitude from taking daily walk in the park just before dawn breaks. It helps center myself before jumping into the grinds of daily life. I think Kagge gets the right idea that “silence is a primal need, a pathway to living fully in the world.” Meditation, conscious breathing and yoga help too in connecting to God, your higher self or the universe (or whatever one chooses to believe in).

    1. So much wisdom and insight in your comment. Especially with respect to meeting your “higher self” on those early morning dawn walks before confronting the chaos of the day awakens. Thank you Herlina.

  4. In 2010 I lived in a house with a roll away dishwasher, water well, and no central heat or air just outside of Houston, TX. There was no available internet signal and no accessible cable lines. This left for mornings sipping tea on the front porch with my fur babies. Or evenings at home reading, writing, or just pondering life. I had more time to wander and explore, and far more time to dive into my career. My cousin coined it my year of technological detox. <3 Silence is golden, from one mother mouth to another.

    1. Sounds positively tranquil. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, memories and experiences. I especially like the concept of a techno-detox. That is great.

  5. I hate to break the silence and be the first comment but I love the lines “Even when we take vacations, we’re never really ‘vacating’ and rarely are we seeking out silence. At these times we’re simply relocating our anxieties to a different GPS coordinate..”

    That is exactly why so many feel they need a vacation after getting back from vacation!

    1. Glad I’m not the only one to notice that. Seems like more than once that line about “needing a vacation after a vacation”. Quite the irony to be sure. Thanks for “breaking” the silence first Chris; it is appreciated.

  6. Silence can be so peaceful. I truly think we all need more of it in our crazy-busy lives. Well said!

  7. This post resonates with me as I have trouble keeping my mouth shut and listening when in conversation. At the same time I crave silence and covet quiet moments. There is so much noise in the world, and back ground noise (including technology) stresses me out. I wish I had one of those signs from hotel rooms, too!

    1. If I ever craft one of those signs I will ship you one first. Thank you…

      1. I’m going to hold you to it!

  8. We take family trips to the in-laws, about a 3 hour drive, and often that early morning drive with the kids asleep and my wife nodding off and very few other people on the road is incredibly wonderful for my mental state. There’s the hum of the road, but there’s no discord.

    And yet, as a father, silence is rare and something to be cherished at times. That’s why I’m reading this post in a room far away from the tv, wife’s DS, and the kids’ tablets. I was getting eye-twitches. Great post!

    1. Thanks Tony, I appreciate you taking the time to find that silence before the eye-twitch turned into something more serious. Actually, I am not a doctor so maybe it already is serious — maybe have that looked at…

  9. I have that struggle, too. And the world promotes so much noise.

    1. Yes it does. Maybe it’s time we push back and embrace something slightly different. Thank you Carol.

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