As someone who thinks mall foodcourts are the third circle of Hell (why do they play loud canned music when the echo chambers they build are already full of noisy people?), reading a book about silence appealed. But it has been a challenge. Novelist Sara Maitland writes about her personal journey into silence. That is pretty challenging in itself as she describes the transition from noisy family upbringing, vocal feminist campaigner, to vicar’s wife, to Catholic convert, to seeker of silence in the Sinai Desert and the isle of Skye. Fascinating but sometimes taking me well out of my depth in religion, philosophy and psychology – areas I don’t usually read.
And boy does she love her words – I had to reach for the dictionary – “apophatic” “kenotic” “phylogenetically” and more.
The Book of Silence finishes with Sara living in a very underpopulated area of Scotland – I hesitate to call it remote as in Kiwi terms it is not. But her house sits alone on a moor, she practices a disciplined life of meditation, prayer, reading and writing with no radio or television and the phone unplugged on a certain number of days. It’s not hermit in a cave stuff but in modern terms it certainly is a challenging way to live.
This sounds like an interesting topic for the five book challenge. There’s some interesting new books coming out about people’s search for silence – I’m looking forward to Colin Monteath’s book on Antarctica as well as George Prochnik’s book too.
Oh, isn’t it excruciating? You can’t even shop at your supermarket without your ears being blasted by somebody who sounds as though they have the biggest bellyache the world has ever known. No wonder I go home with half my shopping list missing! There are even places that have gone to a lot of trouble to give you the soothing sound of a fountain or waterfall by which to enjoy your coffee or meal–and they drown it out with a horrid din.