Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.
What are those sounds in your life?
Wind in the trees outside your window?
The voice of a beloved child?
The song of the sea?
James Brown’s shout on “I Feel Good?”
The call of the first bird at dawn?
The roar of a NASCAR race?
A Mozart piano sonata played by Glenn Gould?
Your life most certainly has a soundtrack.
Sometimes the sounds there are not of your choosing – traffic, airplanes, noisy colleagues, Muzak, or arguing children.
The rest of the menu is up to you.
Many of us fill every waking minute with music, television, or radio. This inundation with constant sound can dull the sensitivity of our listening. We tune out after awhile and go numb to what’s happening around us. The rare gift of silence can offer a much-needed refuge and oasis.
I’ve had two recent encounters with the kind of silence that is much greater than the mere absence of sound. Allow me to tell you about them.
I just returned from a weekend retreat with a group of 60 authors affiliated with my publisher, Berrett-Koehler. The conversations were rich and sophisticated. We explored the diverse ways we were all contributing – or hoping to contribute – to the repair of the world. There were people in that room whose thinking I have admired for years. Wise elders. Young visionaries. Brilliant world-changers. Witty, friendly, and engaging human beings were all around me.
And yet I kept finding myself pulled away from the conversations to sit in the resonant silence of the redwoods. In the presence of those ancient trees, I can almost hear a subsonic hum. A deep thrum that’s just below my hearing range. I don’t know what the trees were “saying,” but I drew great sustenance from them nonetheless.
About a month ago, I was greeting the dawn from an island I frequently visit in the waters between Minnesota and Ontario. As the watermelon sky brightened to peach, there were a few precious minutes of utter silence: no boat motors, train whistles, plane engines, human voices, or even bird calls. On a large lake like that – especially on a weekend morning – that absence of sound is a rare occurrence. The lake’s silence had a completely distinct flavor from that of the redwoods. Each silence has its own distinct music.
Tasting the gift of silence refreshes the ears and heart for deeper listening.
Enjoy seeking out the sounds – and the silences – that make you glad you are alive.