124 Seconds of Silence

 

“The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread.” -Blaise Pascal

This topic seems to come up more than at times I care to admit. For the record, I’ll state once more: I am an introvert.

Introversion is the tendency towards solidarity. I use that word over loneliness or isolation because despite being an introvert, I appear very outgoing. I talk to people, I am regularly in front of large crowds, I can command a room, demand attention and move people with a Napoleonic-style charisma. The introvert part comes after the crowds leave. I am utterly exhausted by these grand displays of extroversion and much like a phoenix, I exhaust all of my energy into one grand display to crumble into indescribable ash of apathy, leaving behind the tattered remains of my clothes in a desperate attempt, like turtles to the ocean, discard my pants and return to my sofa or wherever I am staying for the event in question.

Despite my tendencies towards introversion are however not always typical in just that fact that I am not a tragic recluse. I am not Dickenson in her White Room. I am not Thoreau on his Pond. I struggle immensely with silence.

As people in a modern era of connectivity, my struggle isn’t unfounded or entirely new. Many of us now are used to white noise or noise in general whether it’s through music, podcasts, videos or audio books; we are bombarded with noise constantly. Even at night, when things are meant to be quiet, we have white noise apps, fans, noise generators; silence deafens and scares us.

I didn’t really become aware of this until in changing agencies, I changed habits. An ad-blocker had been installed into my web browser (yes, please comment on the irony of an ad agency girl using an ad blocker) and at first it didn’t cause much harm. It wasn’t until I went to start up a documentary (my preferred office white noise) that I realized something: I wasn’t getting the video ads due to the ad blocker so I was left with an excruciating amount of silence before, during and after each show. This left an awkward silence in between the noise I sought after to protect me from my mind’s own wandering.

What is important here is understanding that listening is passive. I am by no means ignoring work, it’s just simply easier to work with some form of noise be it music: a podcast or a TV show and I’m quick to pick something that I’ve either already heard or a subject I’m already familiar in so it doesn’t take up too much of my attention. Listening becomes a  truly secondary even tertiary task.The noise is just that: noise. The far more destructive force in most cases is the self-imposed silence that workplaces try to enforce. Most everyone I know listens to something while working.

If you happen to struggle with silence, worry not. I found the silence in the gaps of my videos to be nearly too much. I actually had to remove the ad blocker so I could return to the normal constant barrage of sound I’m so used to. Even in a lack of conversation, there is sound. Even in the absence of speech, there’s noise. Even in the absence of contact, there’s connection.

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2 thoughts on “124 Seconds of Silence

  1. I have to work with background noise. It isn’t a fear of silence that motivates me, though. If I could live in a secluded place, I would take my headphones off more often. Here in town, without background noise I will constantly hear my neighbors… repetitive music played over half-broken speakers, the one guy that bought drums a few months ago, people that can’t communicate without screaming at each other, dogs, babies… if I’m lucky it’s only one of the above. Some of these are merely annoying, but others are anxiety-inducing. I use my headphones as my shield.

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