SILENT TO LISTEN

Do you like the sound of silence? One of the joys of the first lockdown, months ago, was the absence – or near absence – of traffic noise. In the current England lockdown there’s more traffic noise with an increase of vehicles on the road. Where drivers are taking their cars I don’t know. On BBC’s Winterwatch, currently halfway through its run, they have a mindfulness moment when they show a short film – just a couple of minutes – of nature, without any human commentary or musical accompaniment. Sometimes there is complete silence; other times you may hear birdsong, or waves breaking, or trees rustling in the wind. When you’re silent, you can listen (note that silent is an anagram of listen.) This morning it’s snowing here; I love the silence of snow and the way it deadens other noise. Such moments bring a sense of tranquility.

One of the weird things about current broadcast sports programmes is the crowd noise that is added into the transmission – despite there being no spectators at the ground. Does somebody have to second-guess what’s going to happen and hit the right button to produce suitable noise? Would we appreciate the Test match in Sri Lanka or an FA Cup 4th round match more, or less, without the non-crowd noise?

At present there is no sound in my house other than that of my my laptop keys clicking as I write this. When I stop I can’t hear anything. In the Bible Habakkuk urges silence: The Lord is in his holy Temple; let everyone on earth be silent in his presence. Maybe, with current world health and political concerns, we would do well to pause, be silent, and listen to God.

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