Derek Sivers

In Pursuit of Silence - by George Prochnik

In Pursuit of Silence - by George Prochnik

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Interesting thoughts and findings on the search for peace and quiet in the modern world.

my notes

while he floats on his back in the bath, I have him name all the different sounds he can hear at a given moment, from water burbling in the pipes, to the electricity zizzing behind the lights, to a cat thumping off the couch below, to the skirmishing of squirrels on a heavy branch outside.

Silence is the shared ground between religions.

Sound imposes a narrative on you, and it’s always someone else’s narrative.

Silence is not a function of what we think of as silence. It’s when my reaction is quiet. What’s silent is my protest against the way things are.

The argument for quiet may be what otherwise remains in danger of going unheard.

Monks live in the desert.

We come for a radical confrontation with ourselves. Silence is for bumping into yourself.

That’s why people can’t get into a car without turning the radio on. They seek to avoid that confrontation.

The hunger for silence is hunger for the thing that silence facilitates or acts as a catalyst of, rather than for the silence itself.

Teachers can walk into a room full of chaos and be as kind and gathered as though they’re with a baby.

Meditation enhances the ability to make discriminations between important and unimportant stimuli.

This translates into a reduction in overall brain activity.

You want to see impulses travel more quickly through certain more limited numbers of synapses to make the whole thing more effective.

The main highway to frivolity: chatter.

Allow the silence to be heard for what it really was: a solvent which destroys personality and gives us leave to be great and universal.

Without silence people had no ability to understand one another.

Stop allowing any difficult decisions to be made by discussion. The noise makes the decision.

We have six free hours before our workday begins. How many rich people can say that? We call it ‘holy leisure.’ Having that time does something to your humanity.

fMRI studies of people listening to music: the peak of positive brain activity actually occurs in the silent pauses between sounds, when the brain is striving to anticipate what the next note will be.

You hear a snap off in the distance, what do you do? You look for it!

The ears are animal detectors and they tell your eyes where to go.

What is it about the sense of hearing that makes the idea of having nothing to hear so appealing?

Most animals don’t announce their presence if they can help it.

Animals move through space as quietly as possible. Today people make noise to reassert their importance, but for our predecessors silence was almost always the secret to survival.

Everman read Benvenuto Cellini’s autobiography, and resolved to make a project of developing the artist, warrior, and philosopher facets of his personality, in accordance with the Renaissance ideal.

Pythagoras compared the entire universe to a musical instrument that brought dissonant elements into harmony. Each planet, Pythagoras believed, produces a note in the course of its orbit.

Noise has more frequencies than musical sound and the frequencies are not related.

A thundering growl is as much a signal to us that we better hide as it was to our ancestors.

The problem with alarming sounds is that while we are quite good at psychologically adjusting, if we hear them often enough, our physiologies never habituate. No matter how thoroughly our conscious minds might know that a loud siren rushing by is not coming for us, our blood pressure still spikes, our pupils still dilate, and our hair cells still flatten and twist.

The word “noise” derives from nausea.

Noise-canceling headphones: Active noise control actually involves making more sound so that we hear less noise.

At midnight on January 2, 1950, a series of extraordinary, spontaneous protests brought to an end a 13-week program in which canned music, along with 240 commercials per 17-hour period, were broadcast through 82 loudspeakers positioned throughout Grand Central Station. But the commuters rose up, insisting on their inalienable right not to be exploited as “captive audiences,” demanding their “right not to listen.” They made dire prophecies that if this practice were tolerated, the trains themselves would be next.

The basic strategy for locating the remaining sites of silence: All the places people are naturally drawn to for work, recreation, and shopping are going to be impossibly loud. But a short distance inland cuts the crowds down to a dribble of locals and suddenly one finds oneself in an authentically foreign place. Underneath bridges, tops of undistinguished skyscrapers, historical societies and libraries, museums of unfashionable subjects, cemeteries on weekdays. Where’s the culture pulling everyone? Now turn around and walk the other way. Keep walking.

Theodor Lessing’s idea that when people feel caged up, they get loud.

From the early 1980s to 2003, driving delays in twenty-six major American cities surged by an astounding 655 percent.

Green Glue is probably the top-selling soundproofing product in the world today.