At FNAC store the other day, in the queue. My eyes scan the counter behind which salespeople are busy. Out of nowhere, Tarzan’s characteristic cry tears the air with its guttural accents. The sound seems to come from some “device”.
The annoyed salesman to his colleague: “Can someone turn off the sound of this thing? “. I pretty much agreed, though my childhood was marked (believe it or not) by W.S. Van Dyke’s 1932 black-and-white film Tarzan The Ape Man.
Silence is golden, speech is silver.
This popular saying has clearly lost its veracity. (if we can no longer rely on popular wisdom, it’s official, I’m giving up). We live in a constant noise, a rumbling sound from morning to night. Since the beginning of your reading, you have probably already received a notification – among the 65 to 80 daily that our applications send us – although your mobile phone is on silent. (a joke, the vibrator mode turns out to be as discreet as a drill).
In short, you know it and the figures speak for themselves:
- Social cost of noise in France: 147.1 billion per year
- Impact on sleep disorders (54%), general discomfort (40%) and cardiovascular diseases (6%)
- 2.5 billion people with hearing loss by 2050 if measures are not put in place, according to the WHO
- 11 months of healthy life expectancy lost due to noise
- Increased sensitivity to noise pollution post-lockdown (57% of French people)
- Noise maps: yes, they have been around since 1990! These assess the sound levels of our daily environments
This generalized noise is not only the prerogative of major cities/urban centers but also of the countryside. We remember Maurice rooster whose morning crowing led its owner straight to court, the bells of these cows whose tinkling cost their breeder a fine of 100,000 euros. I could go on by evoking the Ivorian toads during the mating season, crickets, etc. But France has very recently made these rural sounds inalienable elements of the sensory heritage of the countryside. In other words, there is noise and noise.
Did you know?
The CIA has been using auditory torture on Guantanamo detainees: loud noises played at a volume of about 82 decibels, only interrupted for 7 seconds and every 45 minutes. Music tracks played on repeat, 24 hours a day. Dr. Dre, Eminem, Red Hot Chili Peppers have apparently been on this sinister playlist.
Back to our noisy sheep.
What makes a sound become noise.
When I talk about noise pollution, I’m not just referring to noise toxicity related to transport or other so-called “neighborhood” noises (the loud orgasms of my neighbor, for example). But also of the noise that we generate by speaking, writing, even thinking!
Come on, you will tell me, noise has nothing to do with speech. Not true ! Technically and scientifically there is no difference between a sound and a noise. Both are vibrations in the air or in the water that we pick up with our ears, with more or less intensity.
What makes a sound become a noise is that it is considered undesirable. We don’t necessarily want to hear it. And there are unfortunately a multitude of sounds that we do not want to hear. They impose themselves on us 24/7. Would you agree?
Neither dolphin nor bat.
More worrying. Make some noise, make a big noise has become the new imperative of our society. It’s who will speak the loudest!
Everyone therefore feels bound or empowered to speak out. As if silence rhymed with intellectual indigence, lack of personality or self-confidence.
Anything rather than silence!
So the 2.5 quintillion bytes generated by the world every day hardly surprise us. A considerable mass of content difficult to conceive by the human mind. Which doubles every 9 to 24 months. Not to mention the 200 million voice messages per day sent on WhatsApp in addition to the 100 billion daily written messages on this very platform…. and every other messaging app on the planet. How many decibels is that?
Something to burst our eardrums. Unless you are a dolphin or a bat. Because Mother Nature designed our ears for a silent world.
Talk time vs. Silence time. And the winner is…
It is also interesting to note that silence is not measured (except in music). Unlike noise which is subject to frantic evaluation. (Think of the sacrosanct share of voice or the sound level meter for instance). But there is no performance of silence anywhere. Talk time is preferred to silence time. Silence is of little interest, except to a limited audience of acousticians or bio-acousticians.
However, to believe that this communication noise rhymes with impact, longevity or existence is to delude oneself. Worse: everyone knows it, persists and signs. The inflation of words only contributes to trivializing them, annihilates the ability to memorize them. it makes them inaudible. It blurs communication and its messages as we are deafened.
Because the purpose of language is to communicate.
To make sense. Not to make noise, sound being only a means.
And it turns out that silence can fulfill this function. #jeanlucsolère
I have a radical solution. Simple. Of public utility. Ecological: reconnect with the art of silence. To free silence and not just speech. To trust the evocative force of its tacit message. Why ?
- 1. Without silence there is no speech. Sentences should be interspersed with pauses to allow meaning to develop and flourish.
- 2. Without silence there is no dialogue. It is necessary to listen to others. Otherwise, again, no communication possible.
- 3. Silence gives speech all its weight, its gravitas. Silence was actually used as a technique of public speaking among the Romans. Pythagoras, Seneca reminds us, demanded of his disciplines five years of silence in order to be able to understand what true speech was!
- 4. Silence communicates; silence speaks out loud, with its own phrasing. Let’s take music for example, full of sighs, half-sighs, silences having their deep musicality. And what could be more eloquent than 4’33” by John Cage, composed in 1952 to illustrate it?
- 5. Silence comes to the aid of speech. Do you know what an #aposiopesis is? Something we do quite often! When we interrupt our speech, as a sign of hesitation, emotion or simply because we sense that our silence will better express what our words cannot say.
But what exactly is silence?
First let us agree on the fact that absolute silence does not exist, except that of death. One of the many reasons why it is so scary. It is also a matter of perception because the human ear can only perceive sounds between 20 and 20,000 hertz. And even when we are locked up in an anechoic or so-called deaf chamber (99% devoid of sound waves), we still manage to hear our pulse and our own heart. Not to mention our auditory hallucinations or other tinnitus.
Under these conditions, how can we define silence? Does it exist? This question turns out to be all the more difficult because there is not a silence but silences.
The silence of who doesn’t say a word and who consents. Accusatory or reproving silence. The respectful, admiring silence. The angry silence. The contemptuous silence. The meditative silence. The silence of fear panics. Of intense emotion…
It would be quite simplistic to define silence as the absence of noise or speech. Proof. Here you are in front of me, without a word and this silence resounds like the voice of the Castafiore!
A meaningful intention.
In fact, silence carries a message. An intention. A meaning. As such, it fully belongs to the field of communication and language. It is not an interruption of the conversation but one of its highlights, one of its nuances, one of its powers!
Heidegger tells us this:
“It is not because we hear that we understand. But because we understand that we hear.”
And if we listen to silence for what it is, we will understand everything it has to tell us. The meaning, the intention goes beyond words.
To be silent is simply to choose to communicate differently.
Minute and silence.
Silence is fertilized by time.
On February 13, 1912 in Portugal, 10 minutes of silence were observed in tribute to Baron Rio Branco, Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who died a few days earlier. This is the birth of the minute of silence. 10 years later, on November 11, 1922 in France, Raymond Poincaré established this principle in France in tribute to the commemoration of the armistice.
So the minute of silence is 110 years old 😊 How can we celebrate it?
- By removing silence from the exclusive field of memory. #heallo #romaindaumont
- By reintegrating times of silence into our speaking time, in our lexical field
- By allowing ourselves to be silent, allowing our communication to breathe
- By banishing verbiage
- By redeveloping authentic listening spaces
- By Letting others rest, absorb, understand, take a break
- By creating a horizon of expectation, by playing with desire, surprise
- By accepting the time of suspension and stopping imposed by silence
So, hush! And that’s all.
Next week, I invite you to discover Romain Daumont, creator of Heallo . Heallo is an incredible application that allows you to share moments of silence and kindness with others through the magic of touch.
#freesilence #minuteofsilence #powerofsilence #silencetalks #timeforsilence #2ruesaintgeorges #jeanlucsolere #romaindaumont #meaningfulintention #silenceisgoldenspeechissilver #heallo #aposiopesis