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Praise to the silence

Those who usually follow me would remember that on one of the last New Zealand trip journeys, the Doubtful Sound one, that in English ironically means sound, I had heard the silence. That is something every time more difficult in this world around us, and specially in Spain, that is the second noisiest country in the world. Few times in the life I had that sense of absolute silence. That moment floating over the time, when everything seems to stop completely, when your own breathe takes the calm rhythm, and your heart beats become slower for not breaking the instant magic. I remember that same sensation on the top of the highest sand dunes, on the Namibia desert and in the Paine Towers, in the Chilean Patagonia. Unfortunately, those moments use not to last, and many times, the magic disappears suddenly with a slap of noise, as when, in Patagonia, all of a sudden we started to listen Pink Floyd music. That´s one of my favorite rock groups, but we discovered, with pain, a bunch of youngsters that had climbed to the Towers base with a stereo tape recorder, to put a score to something that has its own music and rhythm.

It had been four months after my return from Australia and New Zealand, two countries that I think that they have more respect for the silence (and no smokers, but that is another story), and in the time that I spent there I never heard a single horn blowing, not even in a car jam in Sydney. Now, I still cannot become used to noise. We had assume it in Spain as something irremediable and even almost distinctive, that it´s deeply tied to our “latino” character, and that seemed to me a big nonsense. The people that talks much use to be the one with less things to say, so, the people that talks louder use to be the one with less value as human being. In a democracy, it is said that the freedom of one ends where the others´ begin. And I think that the same must be apply to noise. Your freedom to make noise ends where the others freedom to not listen begins. In many countries, the useless noise is strongly punished.

Not to make noise does not means no speaking. In the personal relationships it´s necessary to talk a lot. Men begin to tremble when we heard the phrase: “We have to talk”, when a woman say it to us. And we begin to think: “But about what? Everything is fine, we have no troubles, what I did wrong? And so…” when many of these conversations are just that: to talk, not to make important decisions in the life. I don´t know if the difference is genetic, cultural or educational, but the truth is that many men act in a less reflexive way than women. We think less in the things, and we care less on the consequences of our acts, which I do not say it´s worst or better, it´s simply different, and we have to find a common rhythm to go together.

About noise, all the extremes are bad. One day I found myself in a crowded Swiss cafeteria, that received me with an absolute silence. And I had the feeling that something strange was in me, as if I had been naked, until I realized that the silence was the normal thing, not an exception. In that same country, if you have a party at home and at 10 p. m. it is not finished, you can be sure that 5 minutes later the police will be in your home. It´s an extreme, but on the other hand, you have the noisy motorcycles with the open escape tube all day long and groups of people shouting, and it seems unacceptable for me. That people that screams as hooligans would be shocked if someone would shout at their ears while they were sleeping, what it´s exactly what they do.

A few days ago, I was taking dinner in one of the nicest restaurants in Madrid, very well decorated and lightened, with excellent atmosphere, full of beautiful people, and without wanted it, I was informed of all the life and miseries of at least the occupants of the four tables around me, because the voice tone was so high that it was impossible to make ourselves heard in a normal conversation.

Concern, I thought that maybe I could be suffering an ear disease called “decibel hypersensitivity”, or worst, that I was becoming a maniac or an intransigent person. So, I began to ask to my friends and colleagues if they feel that was normal, but they think this is inevitable. I am not agree. The problem is that we are “a silent majority”, and consequently, nobody hear us.

I propose as an strategy something that I do, I can guarantee that it works: the more loud they speak, the more soft I answer. And the effect uses to be immediate. If it doesn´t work, the B strategy is to go away physically from the person. And when you are a meter from her or him, they use to pump the volume down.

I suggest to the restaurant guides to add a new item to the specialties sections, besides the international cuisine, exotic cuisine, traditional cuisine, etc. I suggest that they add another one called “silent cuisine”. I´m sure that many of us would recommend these restaurants. But surely, we would do it… in a soft voice.

See you soon!!!

From Madrid, Spain

Translated by Carmen González Huguet

Published: 24/11/2002 10:43
All times are MET (GMT+1)

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