SILENCE IN THE AGE OF NOISE
Erling Kagge probably isn‘t as famous here as he should be, but you get the sense he probably doesn‘t care. A Norwegian, he was the first in history to reach the ‘three poles‘ – that is to say Everest, the North and South Poles – and once spent 50 days in total silence during a solo polar trek with his radio broken. In this beautiful little book, he meditates on silence as a concept: why we need it, why you should want it and why we‘re losing it. Central is Kagge’s take on what he calls the age of noise: today’s normal life, a time of constant distraction, interruption and occupation. It is a beautifully rendered reasoning that meanders in no small way into philosophy, given colour and resonance with the author’s own recollections of the explorations he has been a part of and the experiences that led him to write this book. Hillwalkers and mountaineers will find a lot to chew on here, simply by being the kind of folk who purely by their choice of hobby choose to extract ourselves from the melee of modern living and its addictive trappings. The book also discusses the conditioning of those in this world – and Kagge counts himself as one – to ‘look ceaselessly for fresh purposes that draw our attention outwards, away from ourselves’ and be unwilling to simply exist quietly in one’s own company; the flipside of which Kagge calls ‘experiential poverty.’ His take is bang up to date – he talks of smartphones, social media, digital TV – which makes its resonance more valid. And it will resonate, whoever you are: over 33 short chapters Kagge essentially tackles the question of silence‘s place in the modern world by approaching it from a range of viewpoints and styles. His voice remains strong and companionable throughout, whether quoting 17th century philosophers, recalling a moment on his Antarctic crossing – "the quieter I became, the more I heard” – or his attempts to pass on his learnings to his teenage daughters. By turns deeply personal and yet applicable to every human being on the planet, like silence itself this is a rare and covetable thing: a simply extraordinary book anyone with a smartphone or a social media account would do well to read – and heed.