Earlier this month, I wondered at the popularity of the recently published Patrick Leigh Fermor book A Time to Keep Silence and of The Little Bookroom's Quiet Corners of Paris. Now I'm beginning to think their success is no accident, but part of a more general yearning for quiet. Today is year three of No Music Day, a five-year effort in Britain to carve out one day of the year for silence, or at least, for a day of respite from the constant assault of background music. November 21st is the eve of the feast of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians.
J. Peder Zane has made the connection as well, although he sounds more in need of a No CNN Day, than a no music day. He sites Patrick Leigh Fermor's experience as well as Karen Armstrong's introduction to A Time to Keep Silence.
The hullabaloo of our hurly-burly world provides many passing pleasures, but it is also a powerful tool of distraction. Silence countervails such absent-mindedness. It leads us to think, to question. That can be scary. T.S. Eliot wrote, 'And they write innumerable books; being/ too vain and distracted for silence: seeking/ every one after his own elevation, and/ dodging his emptiness.'"
© Philip Gröning
Finally, earlier this year, Into Great Silence, a film about the abbey of the Grande Chartreuse in the French Alps was praised all over the place. Shot without any artificial light, and no voice-over, the filmmaker (Philip Gröning) says,
"The film does not depict a monastery, but it transforms itself into a monastery, because a monastery is a place where, through the rhythm of time, which is very strict, and through [the monks'] confinement, the spiritual space is opened up for them." [Quoted in The Boston Globe]