Silence: In the Age of Noise Kindle Edition
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Learning this took time. Only when I understood that I had a primal need for silence was I able to begin my search for it—and there, deep beneath a cacophony of traffic noise and thoughts, music and machinery, iPhones and snow ploughs, it lay in wait for me. Silence.
Not long ago, I tried convincing my three daughters that the world’s secrets are hidden inside silence. We were sitting around the kitchen table eating Sunday dinner. Nowadays it is a rare occurrence for us to eat a meal together; so much is going on all the other days of the week. Sunday dinners have become the one time when we all remain seated and talk, face-to-face.
The girls looked at me sceptically. Surely silence is . . . nothing? Even before I was able to explain the way in which silence can be a friend, and a luxury more valuable than any of the Louis Vuitton bags they so covet, their minds had been made up: silence is fine to have on hand when you’re feeling sad. Beyond that, it’s useless.
Sitting there at the dinner table, I suddenly remembered their curiosity as children. How they would wonder about what might be hiding behind a door. Their amazement as they stared at a light switch and asked me to “open the light.”
Questions and answers, questions and answers. Wonder is the very engine of life. But my children are thirteen, sixteen and nineteen years old and wonder less and less; if they still wonder at anything, they quickly pull out their smartphones to find the answer. They are still curious, but their faces are not as childish, more adult, and their heads are now filled with more ambitions than questions. None of them had any interest in discussing the subject of silence, so, in order to invoke it, I told them about two friends of mine who had decided to climb Mount Everest.
Early one morning they left base camp to climb the southwest wall of the mountain. It was going well. Both reached the summit, but then came the storm. They soon realized they would not make it down alive. The first got hold of his pregnant wife via satellite phone. Together they decided on the name of the child that she was carrying. Then he quietly passed away just below the summit. My other friend was not able to contact anyone before he died. No one knows exactly what happened on the mountain in those hours. Thanks to the dry, cool climate 8,000 metres above sea level, they have both been freeze-dried. They lie there in silence, looking no different, more or less, from the way they were last time I saw them, twenty-two years ago.
For once there was silence around the table. One of our mobile phones pinged with an incoming message, but none of us thought to check our phones just then. Instead, we filled the silence with ourselves.
Not long afterwards, I was invited to give a lecture at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. I was to choose the subject myself. I tended to talk about extreme journeys to the ends of the earth, but this time my thoughts turned homewards, to that Sunday supper with my family. So I settled on the topic of silence. I prepared myself well but was, as I often am, nervous beforehand. What if scattered thoughts about silence belonged only in the realm of Sunday dinners, and not in student forums? It was not that I expected to be booed for the eighteen minutes of my lecture, but I wanted the students to be interested in the subject I held so close to my heart.
I began the lecture with a minute of silence. You could have heard a pin drop. It was stock-still. For the next seventeen minutes I spoke about the silence around us, but I also talked about something that is even more important to me, the silence within us. The students remained quiet. Listening. It seemed as though they had been missing silence.
That same evening, I went out to a pub with a few of them. Inside the draughty entrance, each of us with a pint of beer, it was all more or less exactly the same as my student days at Cambridge. Kind, curious people, a humming atmosphere, interesting conversations. What is silence? Where is it? Why is it more important now than ever? were three questions they wanted answered.
That evening meant a lot to me, and not only for the good company. Thanks to the students I realized how little I understood. Back home I couldn’t stop thinking about those three questions. They became an obsession.
What is silence? Where is it? Why is it more important now than ever?
Every evening I’d sit, puzzling over them. I began writing, thinking and reading, more for myself than anyone else. By the end of my search I’d come up with thirty-three attempts at answering them. --This text refers to the paperback edition.
“A series of lyrical vignettes. . . . Kagge is clearly qualified to write about the soul-reviving benefits of quiet.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“Kagge . . . writes in a chatty, accessible style and with a healthy dose of humor. . . . Silence . . . offers thoughtful meditations.” —The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“An extraordinarily calming book . . . just the tonic when things get hectic.” —The Irish Times
“A simply extraordinary book anyone with a smart-phone or a social media account would do well to read—and heed.” —Trail Magazine
“A joyful celebration of what feels like a precious resource that is . . . in too short supply.” —On Air, NPR
“The book both contemplates the various forms of silence around and within us, and offers solutions for finding such silence amidst endless interruptions and opportunities for distraction….With a sense of awe, Kagge wanders rather than narrates, moving intuitively between philosophy, science, and personal experience….It’s always good to be reminded of ancient truths. And with Silence, Kagge provides a much-needed reminder.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“An eloquent and persuasive argument for the significance of silence, in all of its forms, from an author who has explored the limits of the human experience.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Searing and soaring….For Kagge, silence is more than the absence of sound: it is the incubator for thought, the conscious eradication of external distraction, and the ability to live in one’s own mind as fully as one lives in the physical world. Infused with powerfully evocative art and photographs that enhance his salient concepts, Kagge’s treatise on this endangered commodity provides an intriguing meditation for mindful readers.” —Booklist
“The book expands the concepts of silence and noise beyond their aural definitions and engages with modern culture’s information overload, need for constant connection, and cult of busyness….Great pleasure lies in Kagge’s creative investigations. The reader leaves more mindful of the swirl of distraction present in everyday life.” —Publishers Weekly
--This text refers to the paperback edition.
- Publication date : September 28, 2017
- File size : 13253 KB
- Print length : 131 pages
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B073XL3DTX
- Publisher : Penguin; 1st edition (September 28, 2017)
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #910,921 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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He obviously experienced a lot of silence when he trekked across Antarctica alone for 50 days. But this isn’t a book about the exploration of remote places. This is a book about the silence within, the kind of silence that is found on a crowded subway or a barren mountaintop. In fact, according to Kagge, you have to find it on the crowded subway. That is life. And that is when you need it most.
I completely agree. I lived in China for nine years. Having grown up in a small town in rural America and lived most of my adult life in a house that sat a few thousand meters from its nearest neighbor, I moved to Beijing, a city of 22 million, where personal space is, by necessity, simply non-existent. If you can’t get used to the idea of your face being mere inches away from the face of the stranger standing next to you on a crowded subway, you won’t survive.
Looking back, however, learning to live without personal space was more a process of personal liberation than an accommodation to my new reality. Never in my sixty-three years have I learned more about myself or become more comfortable in my own skin.
The book is a chronicle of philosophy on the topic of silence. But rather than just summarizing that discussion, Kagge applies it to everything from exploring the underground world of New York City to the appreciation of art and music.
Which is pretty bold, when you think about it. He could sell a lot of books merely sharing some of his unusual and exotic tales of adventure. But he doesn’t do that here. He is wagering this book on his ability to share himself at the most intimate level.
And I think he is successful. This is a very good book by a very intriguing individual. Silence, as Kagge points out, is all about listening-to self, the people you love, and the world around you. That’s where you find joy and purpose.
Around the time I gave up on music during hikes and walks, I was turned onto minimalism. While minimalism and silence may not go hand-in-hand, they are both ideas and concepts that have come on with a maturity and better understanding of what is important in the world. I find myself now teaching my daughters about the importance of little things, and how big they can seem and how much we can learn. Looking at two blades of grass on the surface sounds boring, but when you get down to the details it is fascinating. Silence is the same.
This book was recommended by my father who is a wise 68. He is one of the wisest people I know--so I bought the book and read it last week. It's a potentially quick read, but that's dangerous. A book like this needs to be taken slowly and digested. Philosophical at it's core, you need to allow yourself the time to really soak up what Kagge is saying... if you can do that, you'll be better for it. You'll appreciate things you never considered before, and life will be richer.
Top reviews from other countries
"Silence" arrives alongside a glut of miniature volumes that would be Profound, offered by the likes of Alain de Botton,
and generally stashed by the checkout counter in physical bookstores to afford impulse purchase. I'm afraid it won't help you think about silence, solitude and emptiness any more than, say, Werner Herzog's journal of a walk across snowbound Europe, and left me at least with the slightly soiled feeling of having been successfully taken in by a marketing machine consecrated to substituting the superficial appearance of profundity for the real thing.