Silence as catalyst

While sitting in my suddenly very quiet house on Tuesday after dark, I was stunned about how quiet quiet could be. No central heat. No clocks. No fish tank aerators. No family. They had decamped to a friend's house.

Aside from the occasional sound of a tree limbs snapping off rifle cracks across our farm fields, no other sound could be heard from our home. Ice storms will do that. But once I was able to get back online the following day - funny how things can suddenly become very important - I found myself reading and issue of the design magazine Interactions. This beginning passage from A History of Sound in Computing stood out:

John Cage is said to have once sat in an anechoic chamber for some time. Upon exiting, Cage remarked to the engineer on duty that after some time he was able to perceive two discreet sounds, one high pitched and one low. The engineer then explained that the high pitched sound was his nervous system and the low was his circulatory system. There is really no escaping sound.

Three nights and one Honda generator later, I realize that stumbling around in the dark those first few minutes was a real attention getter, and as a way of concentrating the mind toward light and heat, it worked wonders. Now it's Friday morning and the lights are still out. But the initial silence was catalyst, which got me to thinking.

In a time of winter lethargy, whether it happen in business or creative pursuits, I wonder if some entrepreneur might figure out how to offer the anechoic experience. Just so that nerve and heart are made audible again.

Wayne