Give Peace a Chance

The Evening Standard (London, England), September 18, 2017 | Go to article overview

Give Peace a Chance


MODERN life is noisy. Even the witching hours of the middle of the night are conducted to the thrum of car alarms and sirens. Meanwhile, by day, we react impulsively to the pings and trills of smartphones. Or, as author Amber Hatch puts it, we are dealing with "aural overload".

Hatch's new book, The Art of Silence, reflects on the philosophical power of silence and the cacophony that threatens to drown it and us out. She says we must find a way to quell the racket in order to continue with our sanity unscathed.

Silence is a figurative term, Hatch notes. "I'm not talking about a mechanical silence," she writes. "Earplugs can help you with that. I mean a broader kind, a slowing down, a lessening of noise and stimulation." The book is interspersed with brief treatises about silence from authors and philosophers including George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Lord Byron, Arthur Schopenhauer and Virginia Woolf, that corroborate her world view.

However, it also offers practical solutions about how to find the quiet life. The book's overarching directive is the practise of "shedding sound". While some suggestions are hippydippy to the point of parody the chapter about reconnecting with nature suggested "getting to know" a tree by stroking it, and "listening to it" made me roll my eyes so hard that I could hear them swivel in their sockets I found another suggestion, sitting in a seemingly quiet room and identifying all the sounds I could hear, calming. It emphasised how much goes on in the background. A plane yawned overhead; the boiler thrummed; a neighbour clattered. Inexplicably, naming the noises made me feel more in control. It was as near as someone as cynical as me has ever been to meditating. …

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