What is true silence? Is it something that is possible to find? I’ll confess, I hadn’t given it much thought, until I listened to a recent episode of an On Being podcast.
In this episode, entitled Silence and the Presence of Everything, Krista Tippett interviews a man named Gordon Hampton. Hampton is an Acoustic Ecologist, a profession that Google defines as “studying the relationship, mediated through sound, between human beings and their environment”. As a young man, he had a sudden epiphany of sorts, and from that day forward he has had one goal: to become a better listener.
Gordon Hampton has invented what he calls Silent Activism. He believes we live in a world where “silence is on the verge of extinction.” He has spent the past 30 years compiling a list called The Last Great Quiet Places. Of the 30 places on this list, only 12 are in the United States, and of those 12, none are protected land. Olympic National Park, also referred to by Hampton as “the listener’s Yosemite”, is where he has focused most of his study and attention. In particular, an area of the park that he calls the “Cathedral of the Rain Forest.” Here you can find some of the world’s tallest trees, boasting heights of over 300 feet. What’s even more impressive is that this area has the least amount of noise pollution of anywhere in the United States.
Hampton tells us that true silence does not actually exist, that because of everything going on in the atmosphere there cannot be a real absence of sound. But what we can find is silence from modern life, away from unnecessary filler sounds of which we have become numb, and into the world of the natural acoustic system.
We invite you to give the episode a listen, and allow the beautiful and peaceful sounds that Gordon Hampton has captured from Olympic National Park to inspire you to discover the world differently- to think about what it means to really be in a place and to be mindful of what is all around you.