I’ve been living in London for a year now and I know it’s tempting for people to become “London centric” as they delve deeper into the London hustle and bustle. It’s although London is the centre of the universe and anything that happens in London clearly affects the rest of the world, however, this phenomenon affects everyone, regardless of location.
Everyone wants to appear to be active and busy, always on the go and somewhere to go. People rarely seek out quiet moments and moments of solitude and this can be seen all across London. The sound of silence is not something that exists all too easily and people don’t seem comfortable with the idea of silence or contemplation, in fact, it makes them apprehensive. The idea of not doing anything is the cardinal sin of living in London as if you have a duty to make the most of the city and rinse it of its offerings. We are constantly surrounded by noise. Noise in bars, cafes, and restaurants. Noise in hotels, stores, lifts and even toilets. It’s becoming difficult to have a quiet pee these days.
There used to be a time when you could go to a restaurant/pub and not find a 42” flat screen on the wall showing the Ashes highlights on SKY Sports, probably only on to make the landlord feel better about paying such a monumental cost for the SKY subscription. A couple of years ago, I also noticed that now individual TV’s have been placed in restaurants at the table to either keep the kids entertained or to give the adults the feeling of a home away from home.
Back in 1999, the BBC paid over £2k for a machine that would create a constant sound of chit chat after workers complained that their office was just “too quiet to concentrate”. At the time, an expert suggested this was due to the “pin drop syndrome”, whereby, silence caused workers to become distracted and to escape into daydreams as opposed to concentration and thought.
We can’t even sleep now without a constant sound. There are now products dedicated for this purpose. One which creates the sound of white noise to aid the user off to sleep, and if white noise isn’t your cup of tea, there are YouTube video’s that play a constant sound of waves, thunderstorms or even traffic noise. We just can’t get enough.
Luckily, however, there is a growing trend of people becoming mindful, in the sense that they are becoming more self-aware. The idea is that people reflect inwards whilst focusing on one’s self and surroundings all done through focusing on their breathing, in silence of course. Now silence is something of a skill, something that is ought to be mastered. Where once, it was the norm, silence is something to be marketed and made a “thing” to be “achieved”. This has all left people wondering, what is the sound of silence?