In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise

I loved this book.  As someone who is sensitive to jarring and irritating sounds, as a person who relishes quiet, as well as time spent in my own company (no, not a hermit over here ;-).  I also revel in time spent with close friends, as well as my romantic love.  Very much enjoy being out and about among others, in cafes, walking through the city, dining in restaurants and such.  Love engaging conversations with friends/colleagues/family members/my love.  So I very much enjoy socializing.  I also love music, and sometimes lively, happening, bustling scenes/situations and environments).

However, this book is a much needed examination on how both noise, as well as silence, effect our emotional and even physical well being.  On reading it, I was shocked by just how much of an impact noise actually has on our psyches and sense of inner peace, which reverberates out into our physical health too.

too loud

Within this book, we journey to a Buddhist monastery where we learn via monks practices and valued mindsets, the great prize they place on both silence and solitude.  How they experience an immense sense of inner peace, as well as significant mental productivity and clarity, in living their lives largely steeped in silence.  (Makes sense, since noise is distracting from our own thoughts or from whatever activity it is in which we are involved.  Lots of outer noise/stimulation tends to pull us out of our mental engagement with something or someone).


We learn via a man who studies the brain on music that our minds are at their most active and productive in the silence between sound.  That “silence is golden,” meaning, our brains are firing and far more active/productive in moments of quiet, as opposed to when bombarded by noise, which pulls our minds in different directions, distracts, and even can muddle our thinking.


We learn about boom cars, essentially a vehicle which produces excessive sound pressure levels via its sound system.  Something there is an entire subculture of people who are way into.  Spending thousands on thousands of dollars toward decking out their cars with sound systems so intense, it can the break glass to homes of which they drive by.  No joke.  This was an insanely fascinating section to read about!

boom car
Inside of a boom car!

We learn about a remote tribe, those of which are exposed to very little noise, whose members at the age of 70 have hearing several times greater than the majority of 20 year olds in our Western cultures.  They are in fact, able to hear one another when speaking quietly with a length between them akin to that of a football field!

As opposed to our culture nowadays, where i-Pods are perpetually stuck in ears and cranked to utmost volumes, where train wheels squeal, concerts are set to ear-splitting proportions, as well as sporting events that are blastingly loud.  This not including car horns, thumping bars and restaurants with music so loud one has to shout to hear their companion, and stores like Abercrombie- in which shopping is like being in a chest vibrating club.  All of this and more making it no surprise that a majority of people in our country have minor to even significant levels of hearing loss by the time they are in their 20s and 30s.


Within the book, we learn about the structures of the inner ear, as well as how animals use sound (or silence) for survival tactics and how they perceive both of these experiences (sound or none).  We learn about how every big city in the U.S. actually has a particular melody to it, each one differing in tone and aura.  Pretty wild and fascinating.


While some might classify the author as a bit of a curmudgeon in terms of his “ack, any noise and all noise is blasfamy” geared mindset, there is much research-based, as well as philosophical and studied information on the impact that all this noise surrounding us has, on both our bodies and our minds.

On how it detracts from the connections we are able to form with one another- with all the distraction of smart phones perpetually dinging and vibrating, social media ever alerting us, emails from work routinely allowed to infiltrate our home and personal lives at all hours.  How all this blaring music, and continual pings and dings, and screeching wheels and horns, and booming loud conversations by fellow humans, the volume of everything seeming to be on a steady upward tick, how all of it harms and hinders our ability to think clearly, to connect with one another fully, to focus intently, as well as, to have a personal sense of inner peace, clarity, and tranquility. 

This is an excellent, thought-provoking, well researched, and worthwhile read.

 Click the cover to start reading it yourself 🙂

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