For as long as I have lived on my own, quite a few years that is, my normal habit on waking up has been to turn on the radio, to ‘see what’s on’. Throughout the day, I have found it companionable to have the sound of the radio in the background, usually turned down so that I cannot hear the details of what is being said or the music played. It’s a reassuring thing.
Nowadays I have three radios throughout my house, so that no matter what room I’m in, I can hear what’s on.
Why should I need that? Does it add to my enjoyment of life? Does it help me to work more efficiently? I don’t, no and no again.
This week, I decided to change that.
It was something a colleague said on Monday. “Try giving up something that is a major time sucking distraction in your life” he said. If I’m not mistaken, what he had in mind was to stop listening to and/or watching the News – about that fascinating Ginger Pig in particular.
Important though it is to stay in touch with what’s going on, I am sure that “News” can become a major crutch and distraction, especially now we have elections looming over us and the possibility exists that we’ll MISS SOMETHING. Oh dear.
A couple of years ago, I put my TV in the loft. It was ugly. It took up space on a shelf that could be used for books and ornaments and most of what was broadcast seemed to be utter rubbish. If I didn’t have it there, staring me in the face every time I sat down in my front room, I might be able to get some of the things done that I wanted and needed to do.
TV is a temptation and real time waster.
I am irritated with the arrogance of the whole TV industry – broadcasters who seem to have a grossly inflated sense of their own importance in their assertion that TV is an essential element of modern life. Well, we the public have made it so and that’s our fault. For most people maybe it is vital to their existence, but thankfully not for me, not any more.
Having no TV was an experiment at the time, it has worked for me and I really don’t miss it now.
So for the last couple of days another experiment. The radio has been turned OFF, unless I really want to listen to something specific. There’s lots of good broadcast material: far, far more than I have the capacity to listen to. I tell myself it’s all available or replay anyway, if I should want to catch up with anything. I rarely do.
The fact is, we’re immersed, surrounded and injected with sounds, all of the time.
Some sounds I would rather be without, like the constant noise of traffic on nearby roads. Working in my garden is hardly a calm and quiet experience, what with the rumble of traffic and scream of tyres from the nearby highway to the rear and the busy main road at the front. Despite the blessed relief of the double glazing, I can still hear some noise, but to some extent that can be “tuned out”.
So the radio is now off, for most of the time. And having thus eliminated one more part of the wallpaper of sound, I am noticing other sounds: the gentle hum of my computer, for example; the dog gently snuffling behind me as she sleeps; and birdsong from outside (when I have the windows open) and the raucous rooks who live in the tall trees nearby, especially at morning and evening time.
Nice. Aren’t I lucky. There are so many other sounds and I am blessed to have, and I would not want to live in total silence.
I want to be able to choose.
Those of us who have learned a bit about Alexander’s discovery know that we can often stop our reaction to a stimulus, and then choose to react in the way we want. But sometimes we can influence the stimulus itself, like turning off the radio or TV.
Each morning, I go for a woodland walk, usually on my own. Well, the dog comes too, but she doesn’t count really, because she is silent, and has her own agenda. Whilst walking, I think and look around me, reflect and wonder. Every day, every moment is different. I listen to the sounds – not just the distant traffic, but the many and varied bird song, the wind in the trees, the sound of my foot fall on the rough track, and even my own breathing.
Like everyone else, I need that space. To let in the sounds of silence.
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