The cat and I had the house to ourselves. No TV, no music, no conversations. No one was working outside yet with leaf blower, chainsaw, or lawnmower.

Quiet. I miss it.

When I was visiting friends recently, we each had projects to work on, so we did. Quiet. I read, made notes, wrote on two stories, and read more. No background noise intruded, aside from the occasional soft step of cat feet passing through the room on the way to food, water, or company. I hadn’t realized how tense the constant background sounds had made me until I finally relaxed.

My difficulty is that I can’t “tune out” the voices of my family, in case I am needed. I also have to listen for the phone, which is fairly easy. The phone in my office is a reproduction of a 1930s Bakelite monster with a ring that will wake the mostly-dead, still-undecided, and the cats napping behind the hedge outside the open window. Add in the roar of lawn equipment and chainsaws, and there is a constant minor din running all day and much of the evening. I listen to music when I need to concentrate on writing, but true silence is rare and precious.

I’ve always been a fan of quiet. I’m easily distracted by music and voices, unless I work very hard to tune them out, and even then I don’t relax. I can sympathize with Blaise Pascal’s observation (plaint?) that many of the world’s problems were due to man’s inability to sit quietly while alone in a small room—i.e. to be still and think one’s own thoughts. Which I suspect is still true.

The world is full of stimuli. Traffic sounds, headphones so we can hear the latest podcast or our preferred music or talk-radio program, car stereos, all these accompany us when we travel or walk, if we so choose. Background music at the gym, the office, in eating establishments and bars, or TVs going in waiting rooms all distract or (in my case) irritate us. I want to hear other people, I’d like to hear myself, thank you. Talk is vital to maintaining social stability, the small pleasantries that show that we acknowledge each other’s common humanity and place in the world. Yet sometimes I want to be alone and quiet. The world gets worried, or at least acts worried, when people seek the quiet for quiet’s sake. “Something must be wrong, are you feeling well?” Sitting for hours without speaking to another person, even though three or more are in the house . . . That’s strange, says the world. Odd at the very least, that a group of friends can work on projects without needing to discuss things.

I used to see videos of the Tokyo Ginza at night, with all the traffic and glowing signs and screens and sound, and think it was unusual and strange. Now the entire public sphere feels like the Ginza at times, and I understand why so many dystopian (to me) anime and manga center on the big city.

There are times when quiet signals danger, when sounds that should be present are not there. When the wind goes calm, and the sky changes color, and trouble comes from the sky. When words are greeted by cold silence and rejection, the hard wall that shuts out friendship or help or love. No all quiet is good.

It is nine-thirty AM. The cicadas are starting their clattering-drone outside the open windows. The day’s heat has begun to flow in with the morning wind. Time to close the house. DadRed will be back from his errand soon, and a chainsaw is at work in the alley on the other side of the street. The rumble of traffic has faded with the passing of “rush-minute,” but other sounds take its place. For half an hour, quiet reigned. Cardinal Sarah is right about the importance of silence and quiet, even for those not actively seeking contact with the divine.


10 thoughts on “Quiet

    • I suspect a replica of the Model 500. I watched a YouTube video last week about the originals and their ringers, and the poor recordings of them that were used in TV and videos for decades.

  1. FWIW, I think of “quiet” as “a chance to catch my breath.”

    I don’t need it for very long, but I do need it. Something like driving to the grocery store is a good chance.

  2. I feel the need for some background music and I have found that I prefer instrumental over singing.

    As always, Your Mileage May Vary. 😀

  3. Ah, cicadas; I grew up with them every summer… but that was long ago and far away from where I am now.
    Didn’t bother me then.

    • I don’t know about where TXRed lives, but in Ohio the annual cicadas aren’t too bad. Alas, we faced the Brood X periodic cicadas in Ohio this year. Noisy, and swarms of them, from late May until end of June.

      • Hahahahahah! Not in my area. Honestly, pretty darned quiet.

        When I used to live down in Kettering, and on the side closest to the Great Miami, there was wall to wall cicadas on the brood years. Also wall to wall cats eating cicadas.

        Oh, apparently DC is having problems with mites that live in oak trees and eat cicadas. And then people walk under the oaks and inadvertently carry them into their houses on their persons, and then the mites bite the heck out of them because they’re suddenly hungry in a place with no natural things to eat — except humans. I don’t remember anything like that happening in Kettering, even though there’s plenty of oaks, so hopefully the oak leaf mites don’t live in Ohio.

  4. I’m with you 100%. It’s one of the main reasons I live alone. The way my brain is wired, I can’t write if there’s background conversation, and I can’t have vocal music or talk on the radio if I’m driving.

    I’m fortunate to live in a duplex set back from a very quiet street. My landlord on the other side of the duplex is quiet too. Street cleaning and garbage trucks are half a block away, though we do get the occasional leaf blower (ick) or chainsaw. Or loud party, but we have a noise ordinance here that says noise has to stop by 10pm and mostly it does.

    I’m very thankful.

  5. Sometimes I like quiet. Sometimes not. For background music I can go with almost anything, depending on my mood.

    Absolute quietest place I have ever been was inside a cave… a real cave, not a tourist cave. Two or three of us had gotten out ahead of the main group and decided to wait for them in a large chamber that had a tiny streamlet running through it. So we sat on handy rocks and turned off our lights, and just waited. Absolutely no sound at all besides the flowing water.

  6. “There are times when quiet signals danger” – or when the pulsejet overhead goes silent, or there’s a Na’ka’leen Feeder about and you suddenly hear nothing.
    For an older perspective on the overstimulating modern world, there’s always Kipling’s “Very Many People.”

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