From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gordon Hempton: Quiet down, listen up

Hoh Valley (by Walter Siegmund)
It used to be that libraries and quiet were practically synonymous.  Recently, however, I was greeted at a local library with a poster that indicated otherwise.

This color-coded "work of art" divvied up the venerable old building into three zones: green (for "moderate conversation" and "considerate
cell phone use"), yellow (for "whispered conversation" and "cell phone texting"), and – finally - red (for "silent study"). The accompanying map was predominantly green, with one narrow band of yellow and two tiny squares of red tucked away on the second floor.

Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton has traveled far and wide in search of the few "red squares" of Earth that remain intact.  He describes Earth as a "solar powered juke box" that has much to tell us "if only we listen."  These planetary messages would be much easier to decipher were it not for the constant deluge of manmade noise. Having recently completed a "cross country listening tour of America" in search of truly quiet places, Hempton coauthored the book One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Quest to Preserve Quiet.

During this journey, Hempton discovered that the United States was rife with noise pollution.  Spirituality & Practice lists the following challenges that Hempton noted:  nighttime noise that affects hospital patients; a lack of sufficient noise ordinances in many communities; hearing loss from such recreational vehicles as dirt bikes and snowmobiles; blasting music in between baseball innings; ear-jangling airport construction; and loud oceanic rumblings from ships, drills and sonar.

And the one square inch of silence?  It's no longer as close as the nearest library.   Hempton had to go deep into the Hoh Valley of Washington's Olympic National Park in order to savor it.


Copyright December 18, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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