As I sat there I felt that the almost deserted (and unfamiliar) wood through which I'd walked in near silence was indeed one of the best moments I can recall - deciding, each few steps, which way to go, looking about me for signs of people or animals and seeing only one or two rabbits and the tracks of horses, and seeing no litter, just the sky and sunlight through the trees... and then choosing this spot to sit on a log and to look about...
...on the way here I saw a pair of spectacles that someone had left on a fallen tree and I met a dog that looked lost. I heard a woman call for it and so I shouted 'the dog's over here' at which the dog recognised the caller (who was on horseback) and set off towards her...
...before that I heard the shattering sound of a machine trimming undergrowth at the edge of a nearby golf course and felt the nearly unbearable contrast between that sound and the 'silence' of the forest - and I wondered if or when the use of noisy machines in wild places, or anywhere, will be recognised as unacceptable? Aeroplanes have been made several times less noisy than they were - and so can any other machine, given the incentive.
I began writing these memories of yesterday's walk amidst a not very loud but very monotonous beat from a nearby music shop - but now it's stopped and I feel a strong sense of relief - as if the absence of that sound is itself a thing or a phenomenon. I felt the same in the woods when the noisy trimming machine stopped and 'the silence surged softly backward'*... What a silence will it be when, after say a hundred years of cultural evolution, most machine sounds have been reduced by several orders of magnitude and most of the other 'inhumanities' of modern life have been got rid of. And I'm sure it can be done!... yet as I write that I am aware of contrary influences:
Loud noises can be enjoyed and adapted to, especially if they are not perceived as threatening. For instance the sound of low-flying aircraft is threatening and can arouse strong protest while sounds of equal loudness from rock music may be enjoyed by those who like listening to it through earphones. But an enjoyed sound can nevertheless cause permanent deafness...
...but despite these seeming contradictions (which call for careful study, experiment and clear thinking) I remain sure that there is an attainable utopia within our grasp if only 'we' (by which I mean all of us acting as our full selves and not just as paid specialists) decide to take the risks of reacquiring our animal flexibility - with the aid of our at-last-flexible technologies... (and with the discarding of the out-dated habits of prescribed and mechanised thought and behaviour).
End of sermon. And now to rejoice and to DO IT!
I go back to the woods... No I don't - I rethink and edit this note as I transfer it to the website - and I think more of these huge but possible tasks that I keep prescribing for humanity!
*from the poem 'The Listeners' by Walter de la Mare, The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892-1935, chosen by W B Yeats, Oxford University Press, London 1952, pages 157-8.
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