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Beyond peace and quiet: The story of an addiction to silence

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the author's journey towards embracing silence and solitude, and her reflections on the nature and importance of silence in modern life.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] The Noisy Life

1. What were the author's experiences with noise and lack of silence in her early life?

  • The author was born into a large, sociable family where introspection and solitude were not allowed.
  • She was then sent to a boarding school where there was constant noise and no privacy.
  • Later, as a married Anglican vicar's wife, she lived in a noisy vicarage that was never empty or silent.

2. How did the author's perspective on silence change over time?

  • In the late 1980s, the author's marriage ended and she found herself living alone for the first time, in a small village.
  • She discovered the "silent joy of gardening" and began exploring meditation and contemplative prayer.
  • The author became increasingly interested in silence itself, seeing it not as an absence but as a "rich space" with an "interior dimension."

[02] Seeking Silence

1. Why did the author decide to move to a remote location to live a life centered on silence?

  • The author felt that village life, although peaceful, was not truly silent, as she was still known and involved with the community.
  • She was inspired by accounts of others who had sought out extreme solitude, like the polar explorer Richard Byrd.
  • The author described herself as "falling in love with silence" and wanted to immerse herself in it more deeply.

2. What challenges did the author face in trying to live a life of silence?

  • Even in the remote locations she chose, the author found it difficult to escape the intrusions of modern life, such as phone calls, visitors, and the need to run errands.
  • She realized that it was impossible to be completely free of "familiar habits and urgencies" like the need to earn a living and maintain relationships.

[03] Experiences of Silence

1. What were some of the author's notable experiences during her extended periods of silence?

  • She experienced an intensification of physical sensations and heightened emotions during her time in isolation.
  • She reported hearing voices and having experiences that blurred the line between her inner and outer reality.
  • The author had a powerful sense of connection with the natural world during a walk in the mountains, feeling a "oneness" with the landscape.

2. How did the author's perspective on silence evolve over time?

  • The author realized that silence is not a "monotone" or undifferentiated experience, but can be "calm or frightening, lonely or joyful, deep or thin."
  • She came to see silence not as an absence, but as a "whole world in and of itself, alongside language and culture, but independent of it."

[04] Creating a Life of Silence

1. What steps did the author take to create a more silent life for herself?

  • She got rid of noise-making devices like TVs, radios, and even her car radio.
  • She found ways to minimize intrusions and interruptions, such as using email and online shopping.
  • The author eventually purchased a remote, derelict shepherd's house in the Scottish Borders to serve as her "hermitage."

2. How does the author balance her desire for silence with the need for some social interaction?

  • The author aims to have 80% of her life be silent, unplugging from the phone and internet for two days a week.
  • She limits her social activities to a maximum of six days per month, but acknowledges that unexpected events can disrupt this.
  • The author sees silence as a "whole world" that exists alongside language and culture, and she tries to find the right balance between the two.
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