White Noise

No, not DeLillo’s novel, although in this case his work hinges on the same white noise that I’m about to discuss.

White noise, as defined by dictionary.com: “A steady, unvarying, unobtrusive sound, as an electronically produced drone or the sound of rain, used to mask or obliterate unwanted sounds.”

We usually think of it as TV and radio static, study noise, sleep noise.  White noise is our in-between noise, our medium bowl of porridge. It’s what we turn on when silence is too quiet and our voices are too loud.

What we forget to realize, though, is that white noise is a facade. It hides a deep fear that we are often uncomfortable with, and it masks what we do not want. White noise is calming and mesmerizing, but it is also what kills silence.

Silence isn’t really the absence of sound, because sound is always there and always will be. Silence is something conjured from our fear of a certain emptiness, whether it be a trailing conversation, the end of a song, the hush of a forest. It’s something we are not accustomed to experiencing, and we tend to either ignore or hide our fears.

Look around you. Listen. Is the TV on? Is there traffic outside? Do you hear music? Faucet water? Cooking? The humming of computer fans?

Take it out one by one. The drumming, the drones, the vibrations. Push them to the fringes of your sense of perception. Push out all of the white noise until you can only hear the sound of your own breath.

You hear that? Silence.

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Today’s post was inspired by a dear friend and her wonderful words of wisdom: “It’s never truly quiet, the kind of quiet that robs you of your hearing. The world is never so quiet that I cannot keep company with some noise.”


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